Pastor guilty in immigration scheme http://www.privateofficer.com
A Kennesaw pastor was sentenced to nine years in prison Tuesday for her part in a profitable multi-state scheme to encourage illegal immigrants to file untruthful visa applications.
The Rev. Emma Gerald, 56, was convicted in December of helping mostly Brazilian immigrants in Cobb County, Florida and other states file applications for temporary residency, work permits, and travel permits
“I’d like to apologize to the United States,” Gerald said at her sentencing hearing Tuesday in Atlanta at the U.S. Federal District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
Gerald said she “didn’t think it was wrong,” when she charged illegal immigrants hundreds of dollars to fill out untruthful applications.
Prosecutors had argued for a 14-year sentence, saying Gerald was responsible for more than 1,000 fraudulent applications, and her sentence was needed to deter others.
Gerald ran a small local church and conducted her scam in immigrant churches across the country.
Also found guilty of conspiracy were Gerald’s son, Douglas Ross; Hudson Araujo, who helped set up meetings in Massachusetts; and Brazilian Pastor Ruy Brasil Silva, who introduced Gerald to his Bethel Christian Church congregation in Marietta. Sentencing dates for Silva and Araujo have not been set.
Some teen members of Bethel Christian Church translated Gerald’s instructions into Portuguese for their congregation. They helped applicants fill out paperwork using an overhead projector and charged $30 to write boilerplate letters, they testified.
Church member Marcos Amador, 21, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced to time served, which was about two years. He has been deported to Brazil.
Amador filed a visa application for himself, hoping he could stay in the United States to study medicine.
Some of the first immigrants to apply did indeed receive visas and travel permits, although undeservedly.
The visa paperwork Gerald pedaled to church members was filed under an extension of a 1986 amnesty program from the Reagan administration. Part of the requirement was that applicants lived in the United States in the 1980s.
The government received 79,080 applications and denied about 89 percent, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said. All over the country, people were applying fraudulently, said an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.
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Charlotte N.C. Nov. 28, 2007 A Brazilian woman, held in the Mecklenburg County jail since Friday on an immigration violation, is not being allowed to provide breast milk for her son, who is less than 2 months old.
Ezequiel Oliveira, who is helping care for the woman’s two children, said he spent hours at the jail Monday trying to get a breast pump to 29-year-old Danielle Ferreira. He said Ferreira’s baby, Samuel, is crying incessantly and keeps spitting up baby formula.
“We give him formula and put in the pacifier but he is crying day and night, day and night, all the time,” Oliveira said.
Jail officials say they can’t discuss conversations inmates have with medical staff, but are aware of the situation. In general, spokeswoman Julia Rush said, inmates are not allowed to express milk without a court order. She said mothers are treated for symptoms when they must abruptly stop nursing.
Just this month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement formally adopted guidelines that allow pregnant women or nursing mothers to be released under supervised conditions.
Ferreira, who was originally jailed on a shoplifting charge, is in the jail on an immigration hold, meaning she will be turned over to immigration officials once her state charge is dispensed.
She was arrested Friday at Eastland Mall, and her children were with her, Oliveira said.
Ferreira’s brother hid a CD or DVD in her baby stroller without her knowledge, according to Oliveira, and the two were arrested on a misdemeanor shoplifting charge as they walked out of a store. Oliveira said he got a call from police saying he needed to pick up the baby, Samuel, and his 2-year-old brother, Daniel, or they would be turned over to the Mecklenburg Department of Social Services.
Ferreira doesn’t have any relatives in the area, except for her brother who is also in jail, Oliveira said. She planned to return to Brazil next month and already had airline tickets for herself, her brother and her two children, he said. She was going to stay in Brazil, he added, so that her mother and other family members could help her raise her children, who were born in the United States.
Ferreira came to this country on a visa and was supposed to return to Brazil by April 2005, according to Rush. Ferreira would have been sent to Atlanta for a deportation hearing by now, Rush said, but signed a waiver saying she wants to return to her native country without a hearing.
Rush said the jail staff plans to meet with Ferreira today to make sure she understands the waiver and to let her know how to contact the consulate if she wants to take her children to Brazil with her.
Oliveira, who is Ferreira’s pastor and also from Brazil, said he saw her Sunday and she complained of a fever and soreness in her breasts because she hasn’t been allowed to express milk. He said Samuel doesn’t seem to feel well, has a rash and spits up every time he drinks formula.
Jan Ellen Brown, a Charlotte lactation consultant, said it’s not good for a mother or baby when nursing stops abruptly. She said breast milk is best for infants and an infant who has been nursing for two months could have a reaction to formula or trouble drinking from a bottle. Mothers who stop nursing without weaning are in a lot of pain and are susceptible to breast infection.
Angeles Ortega-Moore, executive director of the Latin American Coalition, said she has heard before of nursing moms not being allowed to express milk while in the Mecklenburg jail.
“That seems to be inhumane for anyone whether they are in this country legally or not. Experts will tell you this is a very difficult time for a mom to be separated from her baby,” said Ortega-Moore. “Regardless of what the mom has done, we are putting the health of a young child at risk.”
Latino activist Maudia Melendez had not heard about Ferreira until she was contacted by the Observer late Monday. She said she plans to call the sheriff and immigration officials today to ask them to reunite the mother and baby.
“They should let her go for humanitarian reasons. Let her pay her fine (on the state charge) and give her a court date in Atlanta (for the immigration violation),” Melendez said. “We are talking about a baby. It doesn’t make any sense.”
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