Archive | November 2011

Auction website eBay urges Congress to not tax small businesses

In testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, eBay, the country’s largest small business auction website, said the government’s attempt to levy a sales tax would kill jobs in the middle of a recession.

At the hearing, eBay said hundreds of thousands of small business entrepreneurs can use their low-cost platform to open a business outside their geographic location. This wildly popular website literally opens a small town business to the world.

“You hear a lot about fairness in this debate. Some have claimed that a ‘level playing field’ means all retailers using the Internet should be held to the same remote sales tax standard,” said Tod Cohen Vice President of Global Government Relations and Deputy General Counsel for eBay Inc. “However, sameness is not fairness. Small businesses retailers face many competitive disadvantages when compared to larger retailers. They have proportionally higher costs of doing business, including providing employee benefits.”
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Across the country, small businesses continue to lose ground with large corporations and eBay suggests their business model provides entrepreneurs with an outlet to compete in a global market place.

“Do those who want a ‘level playing field’ demand that all small business retailers get the same tax credits, the same sales tax exclusions and the same shipping rates? If and when they do, we will be the first to endorse changing Quill and lifting the prohibition against remote sales tax collection and remittance,” Cohen explained to Congress.

In an effort to provide Congressional members with an alternative to a straight tax, eBay executives suggested Congress should provide entrepreneurs with a small business exemption.

“Congress has the power to address abuses and inequities without raising new costs on small business retail entrepreneurs,” Cohen said. “A real Small Business Exemption would do that. A real Small Business Exemption would protect small retailers who are already falling behind. Permanently protecting small business retailers from national remote sales tax collection burdens will promote new retail competition.”

EBay also pointed to the Census Bureau and Forrester Research that showed “in-store retail represents 93 percent of all retail in 2012 and only 7 percent represents online retail.” Small eBay businesses argue this small number should exempt them from a remote sales tax.

Small business entrepreneurs said they operate with a razor-thin profit margin and say shipping costs eat at their bottom line. If Washington added a remote sales tax many businesses would be forced to close down, according to eBay.

For these reasons, eBay and many of their users support House Resolution 95, a bi-partisan resolution that opposes new tax collection requirements for small online businesses with a small market share.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/kimberly-dvorak

© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

Getting married to legalize those illegally in the country remains popular in U.

Once upon a time marriage was proposed and a happily ever after soon followed. However, a backlog of legal immigration applications has given way to an easier way to legalize one’s status- fraudulent marriage.

In the last three years, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) found that 264,000 to 317,000 resident aliens obtained legal status through marriage.

According to CIS, “The other major finding from the table is that most of the spouses are not new arrivals at all; they are in the nation in some other status (legal or illegal) and so, in immigration-speak, they ‘adjust status’ here, rather than come through the ports of entry.”

In other words, it’s becoming more commonplace to obtain a visa through fraudulent marriages. Some of these marriages take place under shady circumstances. Former ICE agent John Sakelarides says many illegal aliens dupe an unsuspecting American citizen, and once the proverbial honeymoon is over, so is life as they knew it. “They often charge the U.S. citizen with abuse and/or battery knowing they will get their legal papers even sooner.”
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A 2005 Government Accountability Office report on U.S. immigration practices found that approximately 20 percent of visa applications are filed under “marriage, spouse and family.” However, a bureaucratic United States Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS) program doesn’t aggressively prosecute “benefit fraud.”

“Theoretically, they (illegal aliens) face up to five years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000.00 fine, or both. However, the real story? It’s hardly prosecuted. The why is the subject of the story; ‘It’s no big deal.’ Tell that to the US citizen who has been emotionally abused, falsely accused, and their life turned upside down,” said Sakelarides (See 8 USC 1325 ( c ).

Keeping this in mind, it is up to immigration officers to navigate the murky waters of potential marriage fraud. In the U.S., the waiting period to garner the coveted “green card” makes the most sense for those individuals seeking legality in the country. Experts contend that this program needs to be refined in order to root out the lawful marriages and those with more sinister motives.

The numbers below were provided through the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS)–David North.

Visas Created by Migrating Spouses and Fiancé(e)s, FYs 2008-2010

Spouses of U.S. citizens- 264,062/ FY08, 317,129/ FY09 and 271,909/ FY10.

Spouses of PRAs (2FA)- 35,608/ FY08, 26,622/ FY09, 20,635/ FY10.

Immigrant totals; 296,670/ FY08, 343,751/ FY09, 292,544/ FY10.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/kimberly-dvorak

© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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ICE warns cyber shoppers to beware of criminal enterprises

As “Black Friday” madness grabbed headlines for skirmishes and tramplings over the weekend, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) warned “Cyber Monday” shoppers to beware of criminal enterprises lurking on the Internet.

“For most, the holidays represent a season of good will and giving, but for these criminals, it’s the season to lure in unsuspecting holiday shoppers,” said ICE Director John Morton. “More and more Americans are doing their holiday shopping online, and they may not realize that purchasing counterfeit goods results in American jobs lost, stolen American business profits and American consumers receiving substandard products. The ramifications can be even greater because the illicit profits made from these types of illegal ventures often fuel other kinds of organized crime.”

For many customers, shopping online provides an alternative to busy malls and crowded parking lots, but federal law enforcement officials say online purchases provide criminals with the perfect opportunity for intellectual and identity theft.
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“The theft of intellectual property, to include the trafficking of counterfeit goods, creates significant financial losses,” said FBI Section Chief Zack Miller of the Cyber Division. “The FBI aggressively pursues intellectual property enforcement through traditional investigative methods, intelligence initiatives and coordinated efforts with private industry and domestic and foreign law enforcement partners.”

Gearing up for the busy holiday season the Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the ICE-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), and the FBI Washington Field Office announced “Operation in Our Sites.” The joint operation executed 150 commercial websites seizures that were engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted products.

Federal law enforcement agents made a broad series of undercover purchases including professional sports jerseys, Hollywood DVD sets, brand name footwear, designer handbags and sunglasses, all representing a variety of trademarks.

The 150 seized domains are now in federal custody. Website visitors will now discover a seizure banner that announces the domain name has been seized by federal authorities for willful copyright infringement.

To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit http://www.IPRCenter.gov or http://www.justice.gov/dag/iptaskforce/.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/kimberly-dvorak

© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

Obama pardons several drug-related criminals

While Border Patrol agents put their lives on the line every day to stop drug smuggling along the nation’s southern border, President Obama announced yesterday he is pardoning several drug-related convicted felons.

The pardons draw attention to the recent conviction of Border Patrol Agent Jesus “Chito” Diaz. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison for allegedly lifting the handcuffs of a known-drug dealer in Texas.

The conviction drew the attention of numerous Congressmen who sent a letter to president Obama asking for the release of Agent Diaz. So far there has been no response from the White House or the Department of Justice who headed the prosecution of the Border Patrol agent.

The following is a list of the Presidential pardons;

PARDONS:

• Lesley Claywood Berry Jr. – Loretto, Ky.
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Offense: Conspiracy to manufacture, possess with intent to distribute, and distribute marijuana, 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 and 846.
Sentence: April 29, 1988; District of Minnesota; three years in prison.

• Dennis George Bulin – Wesley Chapel, Fla.

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 1,000 pounds of marijuana, 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846 and 18 U.S.C. § 2.
Sentence: March 10, 1987; Middle District of Alabama; five years of probation and $20,000 fine.

• Ricky Dale Collett – Annville, Ky.

Offense: Aiding and abetting in the manufacture of 61 marijuana plants, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2.
Sentence: March 7, 2002; Eastern District of Kentucky; one year of probation conditioned on 60 days of home detention.

• Martin Kaprelian – Park Ridge, Ill.

Offense: Conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce, 18 U.S.C. § 371; transporting stolen property in interstate commerce, 18 U.S.C. § 2314; concealing stolen property that was transported in interstate commerce, 18 U.S.C. § 2315.
Sentence: Feb. 1, 1984; Northern District of Illinois; nine years in prison, five years of probation.

• Thomas Paul Ledford – Jonesborough, Tenn.

Offense: Conducting and directing an illegal gambling business, 18 U.S.C. § 1955.
Sentence: June 12, 1995; Eastern District of Tennessee; one year of probation conditioned on performance of 100 hours of community service.

COMMUTATION:

• Eugenia Marie Jennings – Alton, Ill.

Offense: Distribution of cocaine base, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1).
Sentence: Feb. 23, 2001; Southern District of Illinois; 262 months in prison, eight years of supervised release, $1,750 fine.
Terms of commutation: Prison sentence to expire on Dec. 21, 2011, leaving intact and in effect the eight-year term of supervised release with all its conditions and all other components of the sentence.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/kimberly-dvorak

© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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California DOJ to gut drug, gang & organized crime task forces

The latest victim of the California budget crisis will leave Californians besieged with criminals and fewer law enforcement agents.

California’s Democrat Governor Jerry Brown approved a budget earlier this year that calls for reduced DOJ funding. The cuts leave many drug-related investigations in the lurch and force local law enforcement agencies to reorganize manpower and funds.

Senior level federal agents say overreaching budget cuts in the state’s Department of Justice (DOJ) clips 34 of the 52 successful anti-crime task forces.

The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement and the Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence (BII) are expected to absorb the lion share of the $71 million in proposed cuts. Also, approximately 170 task-force agents will either receive pink slips or demotions.

“Unless we receive some definite answer or information prior to December 31st of this year, we’re going to have to walk out on approximately 200 people who assist law enforcement on a daily basis,” explained Larry Wallace the DOJ’s director of Law Enforcement. He also warned Californians that these cuts have the potential to increase crime throughout the state.
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These draconian-like cuts would all but eliminate the nation’s premier marijuana task force responsible for seizing 72 percent of the nation’s pot plants. The Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) is responsible for confiscating more than $70 billion worth of weed in the last seven years.

More political football

California is a bastion for politics, and like Washington D.C., leaders continue to play politics with the state’s future.

“Like most other recipients in the California budget in the past 20 years, DOJ has become a political football. It has become administratively top heavy with appointments to posts by Sacramento as political favors,” according to Police- A Law Enforcement magazine report. “This proposed $71 million in reductions would cut out the working staff but leave many of the political appointments in place. Depending on the political shifting winds in Sacramento, the BNE has been pulled out of its role fighting drug traffickers and organized crime to serving the ‘for show’ politically correct issues such as Department of Recycling (DOR). DOJ agents who are expert in investigating criminal gangs and organized crime have been reassigned to fight recycling fraud and environmental issues.”

This worries Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) personnel who complain they don’t have the necessary resources to combat trans-national cartel organizations.

One program responsible for curtailing cartel activities is the San Diego task force dealing with the Arellano-Felix drug and human trafficking organization. DOJ agents have already been removed from this task force; a decision will cost the DOJ millions in seized proceeds.

In the past, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has taken credit for Justice-led operations that targeted the Sinaloa cartel. A recent seizure netted 18.5 kilos of cocaine worth an estimated $1.85 million.

“This operation is an example of the complex and multi-jurisdictional work that Department of Justice agents do every day to keep California safe,” AG Harris said. “I commend these agents for their bravery and professional excellence.”

However, law enforcement officers contend that the proposed cuts from the DOJ task forces would dramatically reduce the multi-agency efforts required to target the transnational gangs that fuel Mexico’s war on drugs.

Officials conclude by saying, the only folks happy with the cuts are criminal gangs and cartel members.

San Diego Rep. Hunter sends Obama a letter on jailed Border Patrol agent

GOP Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) sent a letter to President Obama, requesting a detailed description of the Department of Justice’s prosecution of Border Patrol Agent Jesus “Chito” Diaz for essentially lifting the handcuffs of a 15-year-old known drug smuggler.

The letter had 36 other Members of Congress signatures looking for answers regarding the harsh two-year federal prison sentence.

It was reported today that the Mexican government requested Agent Diaz’s be prosecuted despite the fact Agent Diaz was previously cleared of any wrongdoing by department investigators.

“In two separate letters, I’ve asked the Attorney General to provide information and take action on what has proven to be a serious miscarriage of justice,” said Rep. Hunter. “The Attorney General has been silent so far, perhaps because he’s busy making excuses on why he should not be held accountable for Operation Fast & Furious.”
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Meanwhile, Agent Diaz’ wife, Diana, must now pay $7,000 in court fines.

Mrs. Diaz is working with Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council (LEOAC), to get her husband, “Chito,” cleared of all charges. Andy Ramirez, LEOAC’s director said; “We will continue to lead this fight and stand by Chito, Diana, and their children until his name is cleared. Having worked on as many cases as we have, this one is, without question, the most atrocious yet. It is clear that our government gave Mexico City the scalp of yet another agent.”

This is a position echoed by Congressman Hunter.

“This prosecution cannot be allowed to stand. Someone—whether the Attorney General or the President—needs to provide answers on why a two-year prison term is justified and what motivated the U.S. Attorney’s Office in West Texas, the same office that prosecuted Ramos and Compean, to go after Agent Diaz.”

Agent Diaz remains behind bars and will miss Christmas with his wife and six children if Attorney General Eric Holder or President Obama do not take up the case.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/kimberly-dvorak

© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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Sixth largest cross border drug tunnel discovered in San Diego

A tunnel found in San Diego was more than four football fields long, 20-feet deep and fully ventilated. The drug-smuggling corridor entrances were located in two warehouses that straddled the U.S./Mexico border.

A multi-agency border tunnel task force discovered the sophisticated passageway yesterday, number 75 in the last four years, when surveillance of the warehouse drew suspicious concerns from law enforcement. Once officials executed a federal search warrant, authorities discovered a 20-foot hole in the warehouse and recovered approximately 6 1/2 additional tons of marijuana. U.S. agents then alerted Mexican officials that the tunnel led to another warehouse in Tijuana, Mexico where they recovered approximately six tons of cannabis.

The tunnel, measuring approximately four feet by three feet, contained structural supports, electricity as well as ventilation. Authorities said evidence inside the tunnel suggested the passageway was only recently completed.

A suspicious cargo truck leaving the border region warehouse prompted California Highway Patrol to pull over the vehicle where they found three tons of marijuana in the trailer. Officers apprehended the driver, Cesar Beltran-Zamoran, and passenger, Ruben Gomez-Hernandez who face federal narcotics smuggling charges, according to officials. Gomez told authorities he would receive $2,000 to smuggle the marijuana into the U.S.
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“The discovery of this tunnel is a tribute not only to the effectiveness of our joint investigative efforts, but also to the significant benefits we’re gaining by using new technology to target this kind of smuggling activity,” said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego. “The drug cartels mistakenly believe they can elude detection by taking their contraband underground, but, again and again, we’ve been able to find these tunnels and shut them down.”

The San Diego tunnel represents the third such passageway detected this year and reveals U.S. officials continue to fight drug smuggling along the southern border.

“The fact that this is the third sophisticated cross border tunnel found within a year’s time demonstrates the cartels will stop at nothing to smuggle their drugs into the United States,” said William R. Sherman, acting special agent in charge for the DEA in San Diego. “The seizure of marijuana coupled with the loss of yet another tunnel will deal a heavy blow to those responsible for constructing this tunnel.”

The tunnel is the sixth largest drug smuggling passageway discovered in San Diego since 2006.

The San Diego Tunnel Task Force includes representatives from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.

The multi-agency group uses a variety of techniques to detect cross-border tunnels, from state-of-the-art electronic surveillance to old school detective work. The group also relies on tips from the public to protect the border region from criminal activity.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/kimberly-dvorak

© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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Another unauthorized beach landing by illegal drug smugglers in San Diego

A 25-foot panga boat loaded with 1,460 pounds of marijuana landed under the cover of darkness on a north San Diego County beach earlier today. Border Patrol agents quickly responded to the beach landing and apprehended three men for attempting to smuggle drugs into the U.S.

The panga-style boat was spotted by the California National Guard Entry Identification Team that assists with Border Patrol maritime enforcement, who observed a suspicious boat traveling along the San Diego County coastline near Carlsbad.

“Border Patrol agents responded to the area and observed the boat had come ashore just north of the [Carlsbad] power plant,” said Scott Simon a spokesman for Border Patrol. “Agents conducted a search of the area and arrested a 31-year-old Mexican national and a 29-year-old United States citizen who had fled from the beached boat. A search of the panga revealed five fuel containers and 19 bundles of marijuana with a total weight of 1459.9 pounds and an estimated street value of $729,950.”
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The Carlsbad Police also conducted a search of the area and located another individual inside a vehicle. “They [Carlsbad Police] stopped a suspicious vehicle for further questioning… Border Patrol agents responded to the scene and took custody of a 29-year-old Nicaraguan national who was legally present in the U.S,” according to Simon.

The three suspected drug smugglers, marijuana, car, and panga boat were turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations Marine Task Force for further examination.

The Maritime Unified Command utilizes the fusion of law enforcement agencies, intelligence, planning and operations to target the threat of transnational crime along the Southern California coastal border. Border Patrol encourages residents to report suspicious maritime activity to the Joint Harbor Operations Center at 1-800-854-9834.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/kimberly-dvorak

© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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California’s “golden” status set to run out of money in two weeks

Once famous for the “gold rush,” California’s fertile land drew anybody who wanted to strike it rich, sadly those days are long gone and have been replaced with tax and spend policies that have ended in massive deficits.

California’s financials offer proof that the month of October painted serious accounting problems for the state. According to the October Statement of General Fund Cash Receipts and Disbursements report from California State Controller John Chaing, the state’s income plunged by $3.6 billion. On the other side of the balance sheet, California’s spendaholic ways will increase by $10.2 billion this year. The governor and state legislators don’t seem to be smarter than a fifth grader- that’s a $6.6 billion deficit.

According to Chriss Street of Cal Watchdog, “California has already drawn down 85 percent of its credit lines and only has $4 billion remaining to fund a $13.8 billion deficit. With the same sovereign credit rating as basket-case Portugal, California’s debt is at maximum risk of being downgraded to ‘junk’ bonds. With credit lines almost tapped-out, the sovereign debt crisis that has hammered Europe may arrive in America.”
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For the past few years California, like the federal government, has stayed afloat by borrowing money. However, unlike the federal government, California cannot print money, and is set to run out of “borrowed” cash in a couple of weeks.

While President Barrack Obama’s Administration tries to decide if Italy or Greece is too big to fail, the once “Golden State” is teetering on bankruptcy and risks a devastating new trend for America.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/kimberly-dvorak

© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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State Department expedites college visas to attract more foreign students

In an effort to attract foreign students to study in the United States, the U.S. Department of State (DoS) highlighted efforts to draw future leaders from abroad to attend American colleges.

“We recognize that foreign students bring with them tremendous intellectual, social, and economic benefits,” a Department of State spokesperson said.

The DoS explained they will begin to expedite student visas and that the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs will give student visa appointments special priority.

However, DoS didn’t explain what the expedited process would entail and how they would ensure student visas would not end up in the hands of terrorists like the 9/11 bombers.

Despite some concerns, all U.S. embassies and consulates will process foreign students’ visas within 15 days “to ensure qualified students are able to begin their academic program on time. Worldwide, the maximum wait for a student visa appointment is fewer than 15 days. Foreign students can apply for their visas up to 120 days before their academic programs begin. We always encourage all visa applicants to apply early,” DoS explained.
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Calling the program critical to train worldwide students in an increasing global marketplace, DoS cites that the international student body grew by nine percent last year.

“The consistent growth in international enrollments in the United States attests to the universally recognized pre-eminence of the country’s higher education system… Studying in the United States brought $21.3 billion into the domestic economy. Most importantly, educational exchanges foster mutual understanding, respect, and goodwill between Americans and people around the world,” the DoS finished.

Meanwhile, U.S. students continue to face steep college tuition increases- a hardship that has many students dropping out of universities and joining a stagnant work environment.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/kimberly-dvorak

© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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