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Biggest mafia trial in 30 years sees 350 mobsters and corrupt politicians packed into call centre converted into court

SECRETS of Italy’s richest mafia are about to be revealed as hundreds of suspected gangsters are to face justice in the biggest mob trial in more than 30 years.

Alleged members of the ‘NDrangheta – including corrupt politicians – will be locked in cages during hearings, due to take place at a huge call centre in Calabria that has been converted into a courtroom.

It will now seat almost 1,000 lawyers, judges, prosecutors and spectators taking part in the trial which will expose the inner workings of Italy’s most secretive mafia – due to start on Wednesday.

Investigators will reveal 24,000 wiretaps and bugged conversations to back up charges of murder, extortion and drug dealing.

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Federal Judge Denies Cali Drug Cartel Kingpin Early Release

A Miami federal judge has denied an early release from prison for one of the kingpins of the Cali drug cartel, ruling that his health and the threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus are not sufficient grounds to end his incarceration. The decision from U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno means that Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, an 81-year-old former leader of the Cali cartel, will continue to serve his 30-year sentence at a federal penitentiary in North Carolina.

Rodriguez Orejuela and his brother Miguel, former leaders of the infamous Cali drug cartel, pleaded guilty in 2006 to trafficking more than 200 tons of cocaine from Colombia to the United States during the 1980s and ‘90s. The brothers reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors in Miami that allowed dozens of family members to avoid prosecution for money laundering and obstruction of justice charges as part of the agreement.

Rodriquez Orejuela’s attorney had filed a petition with the court requesting early release for his client on compassionate grounds. Attorney David O. Markus argued that Rodriquez Orejuela’s medical history, which includes colon cancer, prostate cancer, two heart attacks, high blood pressure, skin cancer, gout, chronic anxiety and depression, qualified him for compassionate release. Markus also cited media accounts of the threat that the COVID-19 poses to prison inmates as cause to let him out of prison.

“Because there were already sufficient reasons to release him, this crisis gives the court further reasons to grant his motion,” he said.

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The dark side of Japan’s anime industry

Anime brings in more than $19 billion a year. Its artists are earning barely enough to survive.

Pikachu’s thunderbolt struck America in 1998 and changed the lives of a generation.

The US anime craze started at the turn of the century with Sailor Moon’s middle-school magical girls out to save faraway planets; One Piece’s pirates, cyborgs, and fish people seeking a legendary treasure; and Pokémon’s Ash Ketchum on a noble quest to “catch ’em all.”

These classic shows and many others led the charge; between 2002 and 2017, the Japanese animation industry doubled in size to more than $19 billion annually. One of the most influential and renowned anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion, finally debuted on Netflix this month, marking the end of years of anticipation and a new pinnacle in anime’s global reach.

But anime’s outward success conceals a disturbing underlying economic reality: Many of the animators behind the onscreen magic are broke and face working conditions that can lead to burnout and even suicide.

The tension between a ruthless industry structure and anime’s artistic idealism forces animators to suffer exploitation for the sake of art, with no solution in sight.

Anime’s slave labor problem

Anime is almost entirely drawn by hand. It takes skill to create hand-drawn animation and experience to do it quickly.

Shingo Adachi, an animator and character designer for Sword Art Online, a popular anime TV series, said the talent shortage is a serious ongoing problem — with nearly 200 animated TV series alone made in Japan each year, there aren’t enough skilled animators to go around. Instead, studios rely on a large pool of essentially unpaid freelancers who are passionate about anime.

At the entry level are “in-between animators,” who are usually freelancers. They’re the ones who make all the individual drawings after the top-level directors come up with the storyboards and the middle-tier “key animators” draw the important frames in each scene.

In-between animators earn around 200 yen per drawing — less than $2. That wouldn’t be so bad if each artist could crank out 200 drawings a day, but a single drawing can take more than an hour. That’s not to mention anime’s meticulous attention to details that are by and large ignored by animation in the West, like food, architecture, and landscape, which can take four or five times longer than average to draw.

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Why the mafia are taking care of everyone’s business

Organised crime is already giving food parcels to the poor in Italy and Mexico. For the cartels and syndicates, this crisis is an opportunity

Pestilence presents a moment of great opportunity for many businesses.

Consider the speed at which contracts are put out to tender to meet extraordinary needs. Consider the ability to move goods and money without all the normal checks or legal and bureaucratic protocols. Plague is a boon for the commercial class.

The art of profit is based on exploiting need, and no one has perfected that dark art better than organised crime. The Covid-19 pandemic is already demonstrating this. With their usual business acumen, criminal organisations have, in recent decades, invested in a number of companies that have turned out to be very relevant to the present crisis: multi-service businesses (catering, cleaning or disinfection), industrial laundries, transport, funeral homes, waste collection, food distribution – and the health. All of these sectors have become fundamental to our survival over recent weeks, and will probably remain so for a good while.

In Italy, police have already raised the alarm about mafia cartels’ investment in the production and distribution of “epidemic kits”, comprising masks, hand sanitiser and latex gloves. These products are today almost impossible to find, and the sudden overwhelming demand (surely destined to continue over the coming months) has caused prices to skyrocket.

For the Calabrian mafia, the ’ndrangheta, this would be familiar territory: for years it made capital investments in the pharmaceutical and healthcare products sectors. In March 2016, it was revealed that the ’ndrangheta had been working aggressively to establish itself in medical and pharmaceutical industries across Lombardy – which became Italy’s Covid-19 “Ground Zero” – even dispatching cartel operatives and their relatives to qualify in medicine, nursing and pharmacology.

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Mafia distributes food to Italy’s struggling residents

Organised crime groups offer support to quarantined families who have run out of cash

As Italy struggles to pull its economy through the coronavirus crisis, the Mafia is gaining local support by distributing free food to poor families in quarantine who have run out of cash, authorities have warned.

In recent weeks, videos have surfaced of known Mafia gangs delivering essential goods to Italians hit hard by the coronavirus emergency across the poorest southern regions of Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Puglia, as tensions rise across the country.

“For over a month, shops, cafés, restaurants and pubs have been closed,” Nicola Gratteri, antimafia investigator and head of the prosecutor’s office in Catanzaro, told the Guardian. “Millions of people work in the grey economy, which means that they haven’t received any income in more than a month and have no idea when they might return to work. The government is issuing so-called shopping vouchers to support people. If the state doesn’t step in

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