Archive for the ‘Crimes Against Immigrants’ Category

By Aaron Smith

The Indian company Infosys has reached a record $34 million settlement with federal prosecutors in Texas, to settle “allegations of systemic visa fraud and abuse of immigration processes.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District in Texas said that this is the largest payment ever levied in an immigration case.

The government accused software developer Infosys (INFY) of using workers with B-1 visas, which only allow temporary entry into the U.S. for business purposes, to perform skilled labor jobs.

The U.S. said these jobs should only be performed by workers with H-1B visas, which allow foreign nationals to enter the U.S. to perform a specialty occupation.

The government accused Infosys (INFY), a software developer, of using B-1 visa holders to perform skilled labor jobs that were supposed to be done by “legitimate” holders of H-1B visas.

The settlement says Infosys submitted letters to U.S. Consular Officials that “contained false statements regarding the true purpose of a B-1 visa holder’s travel in order to deceive U.S. Consular Officials and secure entry of the visa holder into the United States.”

It also says that Infosys issued a “dos” and “don’ts” memorandum directing B-1 visa holders “to deceive U.S. Consular Officials, including specific instructions to avoid certain terminology, to secure entry of the visa holder in the United States.” The memo allegedly included instructions to avoid using words like “work” and “contract” in certain communications with U.S. officials.

Infosys said it agreed to a civil settlement “relating to I-9 paperwork errors and visa matters that were the subject of the investigation. There were no criminal charges or court rulings against the company.” To top of page


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By Andrea Saenz

This week, for the first time in the United States, detained immigrants who cannot afford attorneys will be provided with counsel through the New York Family Unity Project (NYIFUP). The program is a one-year pilot, funded through a grant from the forward-leaning New York City Council, which will provide representation for nearly 200 detainees at the Varick Street Immigration Court in New York City.

The program grew out of research by the New York Immigrant Representation Study, under the leadership of now-Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, demonstrating clearly that detainees without representation have virtually no chance of success in their removal cases. The NYIFUP is the result of advocacy by a coalition of organizations, led by the Center for Popular Democracy, the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Make the Road New York, the Vera Institute of Justice, and the Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo School of Law.

As part of the NYIFUP advocacy team at Cardozo, seeing the pilot launch at Varick Street is incredibly exciting, and we hope to be a model across the country. There is a real opportunity for our new mayor and City Council to expand this project and keep New York the most immigrant-friendly city in America, and we hope to go statewide in the future.

At the same time, the coalition released a white paper entitled The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project: Good for Families, Good for Employers, and Good for All New Yorkers. The report shows how the lack of counsel for detained immigrants leads to unnecessary deportations that devastate families, undermine our commitment to due process, and impose huge costs on local governments and employers. The study’s findings include:

– State agencies and employers face some $13.4 million in costs relating to detention and deportation.
– New York State employers pay out an estimated $9.1 million in turnover-related costs a year when they are required to replace detained or deported workers
– Detention or deportation of a parent is linked to school dropout rates among children, limiting long-term earning
potential, decreasing tax revenues, and increasing reliance on public health insurance. This translates into $3.1 million in costs a year.
– Detentions and deportations of parents also cause significant costs to the NY State Children’s Health Insurance Program when bread-winning parents are deported.
– Finally, the state pays over half a million dollars a year to provide foster care to the children of detained or deported New Yorkers.

The report concludes that if NYFIFUP was expanded statewide, it would save $5.9 million of these costs, making it both a smart economic investment for the state and business, and a strong commitment to due process, family unity and our history as a nation of immigrants.

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La Opinión, News Report, Pilar Marrero, Translated by Elena Shore, Posted: Mar 17, 2011

María Bolaños has been fighting her deportation for more than a year, since a fight with her husband when she called the police to report that she was a victim of domestic violence. The police arrived at her home and, suspecting her of illegally selling phone cards, ordered her arrest.

Her case is the most well known, but activists say all programs that mix police work with immigration enforcement represent a growing threat to immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence.

“The Department of National Security hasn’t been very effective in identifying victims of domestic violence, even those who have already gotten benefits, such as suspension of deportation under the law VAWA (Violence Against Women Act),” Leslye Orloff, director of the immigrant women’s program at Legal Momentum, said recently before Congress.

With the expansion of the Secure Communities program, which is now operating in every county in California, along with 1,000 counties across the country, that danger is even greater, Orloff said.

Undocumented immigrants who have been victims of domestic violence can apply for residency without a sponsor, through the U Visa and T Visa programs. These are laws that benefit survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, among other violent crimes.

But when a domestic violence victim calls the police to report a violent incident, police often arrest both the victim and the perpetrator, especially if the couple doesn’t speak English and there is confusion about what happened.

Activists in defense of immigrant women say this shows how dangerous these programs are for public safety, especially in immigrant communities.

“Our poor neighborhoods are full of immigrants; they don’t have the level of police protection. There is simply nothing more critical than the trust between the immigrant and the authorities,” said Enid Gonzalez, a member of the legal team at Casa de Maryland, the first organization to help Bolaños. Gonzalez said cases like this make communities think that they shouldn’t call the police for help.

The Secure Communities program matches the fingerprints of all arrestees against a federal immigration database to determine whether they have outstanding deportation orders or are in the country illegally. If someone is arrested and booked, even if the charges are later dropped, his or her fingerprints will end up in these databases and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will be notified. ICE maintains that it is focused on arresting dangerous criminals and prioritizing the most serious crimes over minor offenses. However, it doesn’t always happen this way. A recent analysis of ICE’s own data showed that at least 28 percent of those processed under the program were not guilty of any crime; they were simply undocumented immigrants.

ICE recently released 15,000 documents and internal memos about its management of the program following a legal battle led by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, according to the organization’s director, Pablo Alvarado.

“They haven’t told the truth with respect to this program,” he said.

The case of women who have been victims of domestic violence is unique, not only because they have the right to immigration benefits – although many times they don’t know this – but also because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has tried to implement measures to identify these women, although the program is so wide-reaching that this has been difficult.

At the urging of activists, DHS created a list with thousands of names of women who have received domestic violence benefits or are applying for them and have been approved.

“ICE isn’t supposed to touch these women, but with programs like 287(g) or Secure Communities, this list doesn’t seem to have much effect,” said Orloff.

“What we ask is that ICE is committed to ensuring that the person arrested is not the victim. Otherwise, this kind of program becomes very dangerous.”

In any case, the effect is to create more fear among women of the police than of the abusers themselves, said Judy London, an attorney with Public Counsel in Los Angeles.

“Ultimately, what concerns us most is not that there are many cases of this, but that it creates fear in the community … this has definitely damaged the trust between police and the community,” said London.

In fact, as a result of cases like that of María Bolaños, some organizations that help battered women are recommending that they don’t call the police, and instead try to call someone else first.

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Feb. 20, 2011

Friday, police chiefs and sheriffs from around Texas went to Austin to warn against a bill by Sen. Tommy Williams of The Woodlands.
The bill is authorized as fast-track legislation under Gov. Rick Perry’s declaration that outlawing “sanctuary cities” is an emergency. It would order police chiefs and sheriffs to stop prohibiting their officers from questioning people they detain about their immigration status. Houston and Harris County already have a policy that anyone arrested and taken to jail will have his or her immigration status checked, and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities are notified when inmates are found to be in the country illegally.
That program has led to about 20,000 persons being referred to ICE in the past two and a half years, at least 11,700 of whom have been deported. But Houston police officers are forbidden from questioning people during, for example, traffic stops about their immigration status. The police chiefs and sheriffs argue that being required to act as immigration cops would hurt their ability to fight other crimes, since people here illegally would be afraid to come forward as victims or as witnesses.
Under the bill, local police agencies that follow a don’t-ask policy could lose state grants and be subject to court action by the attorney general. Critics of such policies see these sheriffs and police chiefs as tools of a liberal political elite that is in favor of “sanctuary cities.”
Others see the governor and some legislators as engaging in political posturing to look tough on immigration by proposing legislation that sounds good but is mostly symbolic. I wanted to talk about Williams’ bill with a knowledgeable person who was unlikely to spew political talking points. So at the suggestion of my colleague, immigration reporter Susan Carroll, I called Tre Rebstock. Rebstock is a federal immigration officer and president of a union of ICE workers. So he talks to a lot of other immigration workers. Rebstock has no use for “sanctuary cities” or for illegal immigrants.
“Even under (President) Bush junior, every time the government said there’s no way we can deport them all,” he said of America’s millions of illegal immigrants, “the pretty much unanimous response from ICE officers is ‘let us try!’ ” He said he’d love for local law enforcement officers to help, but he doesn’t think Williams’ bill will make much difference.
“Any time you look at getting federal and state agencies to work together, you still have to follow the money,” he said. He said if police started calling ICE to report every suspected illegal immigrant they stopped for a traffic violation, “we’d tell them to take him into custody until we can get someone over there to interview him.” But that could take days and, said Rebstock, there’s a good chance the county wouldn’t be compensated by the feds for housing the suspect in the Harris County jails, which are essentially at capacity now.
What’s more, the illegal immigrants would then be placed in an ICE facility, at somewhere between $75 and $100 a day. It now takes six to 10 weeks to process for deportation illegal immigrants who are not accused of other crimes, Rebstock said. If they became deluged with illegal immigrants arrested from traffic stops and other legal detentions, that backlog would increase dramatically.
“ICE doesn’t have the bed space either,” Rebstock said, noting that the ICE director put out a memo saying people who don’t have a criminal history “are not our priority.” Nor, said Rebstock, does ICE have the personnel. “We’re pretty well maxed out,” he said. So without massive new funding, the Williams bill won’t make any practical difference. You might call it an unfunded, as well as an unfunding, mandate.

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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A survey of U.S. immigration detention facilities by Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) shows that as the Obama administration detains more immigrants than ever before, many lack access to affordable legal services because they are held in remote locations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are unable to meet the staggering demand for legal assistance. The report, Isolated in Detention: Limited Access to Counsel in Immigration Detention Facilities Jeopardizes a Fair Day in Court, also finds that policies which restrict detainees from contacting lawyers by phone further isolate many of the estimated 32,000 women and men detained every night by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Download the report at www.immigrantjustice.org/isolatedindetention.

cover_image2Access to legal representation has a significant effect on the outcome of immigration cases. A 2005 Migration Policy Institute study found that 41 percent of detained individuals applying to become lawful permanent residents who had legal counsel won their cases, compared to 21 percent of those without representation. In asylum cases, 18 percent of detainees with legal representation were granted asylum, compared to only three percent without legal representation. Under U.S. law, individuals in immigration proceedings are not granted court-appointed counsel, so detained immigrants must find a way to locate and pay for attorneys from detention.

“Our survey found that the government is detaining thousands of men and women in remote facilities where they have extremely limited access to counsel.” said Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director, National Immigrant Justice Center. “In some facilities, it is impossible for detained immigrants to find attorneys. As long as the government chooses to engage in the unnecessary, expensive and inhumane detention of men, women, and children who are not dangers to our communities, significant barriers will prevent a fair day in court for detainees.”

NIJC surveyed 150 immigration detention facilities nationwide (representing approximately 97 percent of the detention beds) and 148 NGOs providing legal services to detained immigrants. Because phone communication often is the only way people in isolated facilities can access legal counsel, NIJC conducted a separate survey of 67 facilities, accounting for 81 percent of the detention beds, to determine detention facilities’ policies regarding detainees’ phone access to attorneys.

Among the survey’s key findings:

•    While the U.S. government spent $5.9 billion to detain immigrants in fiscal year 2009, it spent less than 0.07% of that amount to provide detainees with legal rights information. Ensuring due process for the 400,000 detained immigrants was largely the job of 102 under-resourced NGOs.

•    None of the NGOs had the resources required to meet the demand for legal services, particularly at detention facilities located far from major cities. Specifically, more than a quarter of the detention population included in the survey was in facilities with 500 or more detainees per NGO attorney. Eighty percent of detainees were in facilities with more than 100 people for every NGO attorney. A full 10 percent of detainees were held in facilities that had no access to legal counsel at all.

•    More than half of detention facilities, holding about a quarter of the detained immigrant population, did not offer detainees any informational presentations about their rights in the immigration system.

•    Barriers to legal services for geographically isolated detainees are compounded by policies blocking detainees’ ability to call attorneys. Seventy-eight percent of the detention population included in the phone survey were housed in facilities prohibiting lawyers from having private calls with clients.

Recommendations to Improve Access to Counsel for Detained Immigrants

The over-use of detention has far-reaching negative effects.  NIJC calls on the Obama administration to end the unnecessary detention of women and men who pose no threat to society and to request appropriations from Congress to expand alternatives to detention programs where appropriate. NIJC recommends that DHS locate detention facilities only near cities which have established pro bono attorney networks willing to represent immigrant detainees. Furthermore, the immigration agency should ensure that detained immigrants can contact their attorneys by phone, allow legal service providers to arrange private phone calls with detainees, and allow detained immigrants to make free calls to legal aid organizations.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) also must help protect access to legal counsel for detained immigrants. NIJC calls on the DOJ to make the federal Legal Orientation Program, which provides basic legal information to detained immigrants, available in all immigrant detention facilities.  The DOJ should also allow immigration judges to appoint legal counsel for particularly vulnerable individuals, such as children or people with disabilities. Finally, the DOJ should work with Congress to make the Legal Orientation Program available nationwide and to permit use of funds for direct representation when an immigration judge appoints an NGO to represent a detainee.

Access to Legal Counsel for Detained Immigrants Makes Economic Sense

The Isolated in Detention report highlights federal detention cost estimates which show that ensuring detained immigrants have access to counsel through expanded legal orientation programs and alternatives to detention would save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Effective alternatives to detention, which have already been piloted and would allow immigrants better access to attorneys, cost an average of $12 per detainee per day compared to the $122 it currently costs to detain someone.

“Without fundamental change in the U.S. government’s approach to immigration enforcement, Americans will continue to pay a high price for an unsustainable system that erodes American ideals of justice and human rights.” McCarthy said.

The report is available at www.immigrantjustice.org/isolatedindetention.

Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center provides direct legal services to and advocates for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through policy reform, impact litigation, and public education.

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Center for American Progress

By Gebe Martinez, Ann Garcia, Jessica Arons | August 18, 2010

This election cycle conservatives are intoxicated with immigrant bashing, particularly pregnant immigrant women and their children. Their tactic: change the U.S. Constitution to deny citizenship to babies born in this country to undocumented women. This is a cynical strategy that explicitly targets Latino communities—the fastest-growing segment of the electorate. These desperate politicians would rather get rid of these new voters than do the hard work of cultivating them. In their quest for power they will do or say anything to get elected.

This is also an ugly strategy fueled by sexism and racism. It taps into a long history of population control—government efforts to curb growth among disfavored populations. During slavery, the children slaveowners sired with their slaves were deemed slaves themselves who could be sold as chattel, thereby increasing the wealth of the owner rather than the size of his family. Chinese women in the 1800s were labeled prostitutes and denied visas to join their husbands who labored on our railroads. And black women, Native American women, and Latinas were routinely sterilized either without their knowledge or without their consent as recently as the 1970s.

Conservatives’ rhetoric on this issue is particularly insulting, likening the human birthing process to that of farm animals.

“They come here to drop a child. It’s called ‘drop and leave,’” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) during an interview on Fox News. Graham’s comments were especially shocking given his past leading role as a sponsor of comprehensive immigration reform legislation aimed at uniting, not dividing families. Nevertheless, his comments buoyed the push to end birthright citizenship, creating an echo on Capitol Hill where conservative leaders then called for hearings on the issue.

The rhetoric did not get any better coming from former obstetrician-turned-congressman Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) on MSNBC: “That dropping situation, Chris, is what we refer to as anchor baby.”

And Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), the architect of S.B. 1070, the state’s anti-immigrant law now being challenged in court, conceded that his support for changing the Constitution is gender based. He circulated and publicly defended a statement by Al Garza, one of his constituents and a former top official of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, a group classified as a nativist extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The e-mail Pearce defended reads, “If we are going to have an effect on the anchor baby racket, we need to target the mother. Call it sexist, but that’s the way nature made it. Men don’t drop anchor babies, illegal alien mothers do.”

Pearce’s amalgamation of legislative proposals would inexorably lead to ethnic profiling of pregnant women. This already occurred in Utah even without any legislation to sanction it. Two state government workers sent the names of 1,300 people to law enforcement and the news media because they suspected them of being undocumented immigrants. The list included the due dates of pregnant women, which is a disturbing invitation for harassment and is most likely a violation of federal health privacy laws.

Ironically, many of the same politicians who have jumped on the citizenship denial bandwagon also claim to be “pro-life” and “pro-family.” Yet they have no hesitation about splitting up families through harsh deportation policies or dehumanizing immigrant women and their children with their hateful rhetoric.

By portraying immigrant women as less than human—that they “drop” babies as animals drop their offspring—immigration opponents stir up fears that foreigners specifically come here to have children in order to derive citizenship from their children, or claim government benefits. Or, as Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) has foolishly maintained, to “raise and coddle” future terrorists.

But the simple fact is that most immigrant women do not come to the United States to give birth. They come to work. A child cannot even petition for the parents to become citizens until the child is 21. What’s more, undocumented immigrants have never been eligible for welfare benefits, and new legal immigrants to the United States became ineligible for services for the poor as a result of the 1996 welfare reform law President Bill Clinton signed.

Not coincidentally, two subcommittees of the House Judiciary Committee held a joint hearing on seven proposed bills or resolutions by conservatives to limit birthright citizenship in late 1995, a few months before the government cut back welfare benefits for legal immigrants.

Those wanting to maintain constitutional rights for citizen children of immigrants argued then as now that if birthright citizenship were removed the policy would be difficult to carry out and mothers’ health could be endangered. Moreover, health care professionals would be turned into immigration agents, and pregnant women who might not “look” like citizens would face stressful questioning or harassment at the borders.

Questions have been raised since then over whether deportations target pregnant women, as in the tragic case of Jiang Zhen Xing, a pregnant Chinese woman. Xing went with her husband and two sons on February 7, 2006 to an immigration office near Philadelphia for what they thought was routine questioning. But she was taken into custody and driven to JFK Airport for deportation to China. Xing begged for and was repeatedly denied medical care while she was held for eight hours at the airport. When she was finally taken to a hospital, doctors discovered she had miscarried twin fetuses.

Priscilla Huang, recounting this story in the Harvard Law & Policy Review, concluded, “Immigrant women are particularly prone to ideological attacks, as well as punitive welfare and immigration policies, because of their capacity for child-bearing.”

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is in a tough primary election this month, originally did not object to birthright citizenship hearings. But as a former champion of comprehensive immigration reform who often referred to immigrants as “God’s children,” he recently changed his approach and officially opposed changing the 14th Amendment.

The top GOP candidates in California—both women—have also come out against denying birthright citizenship rights. Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and Senate candidate Carly Fiorina stated their opposition to changing that part of the Constitution when responding to questions from the press.

Another conservative proposal, however, would deny pregnant foreigners permission to enter the United States. This, too, is wrong-headed and impossible to enforce. What do they suggest? Administering pregnancy tests to all women at the border?

Political satirist Stephen Colbert recently showed the absurdity of the debate by mockingly calling for a 2,000-mile latex border fence coated with spermicidal jelly. He told his television audience, “I’m sure there are women pointing themselves at our border right now” so that they can ‘squirt’ their babies across the border.

This politically manufactured issue is indeed ludicrous, but it is no laughing matter. It will take time to remind the public that the only “anchors” in this debate are the dead weights that refuse to act responsibly and fix our broken immigration system by enacting comprehensive immigration reform. Targeting women and children instead is a cowardly way out.

Léalo en español

Gebe Martinez is a Senior Writer and Policy Analyst, Ann Garcia is Special Assistant for Immigration Policy, and Jessica Arons is Director of Women’s Health and Rights Program at American Progress.

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Published: August 12, 2010

The Obama administration has granted asylum to a Mexican woman who was sexually abused and severely battered by her common-law husband. The decision, in a closely watched case, clarifies the exacting standard that domestic abuse victims must meet to win asylum.

Department of Homeland Security officials found that the woman had proved that she could not expect the Mexican authorities to protect her from the violence and murder threats of her attacker, and that she could not safely relocate anywhere in the country to escape him.

During decades of abuse, the man repeatedly raped her at the point of guns and machetes, and once tried to burn he 

alive, according to court documents in the case in San Francisco.

Based on a favorable recommendation from Department of Homeland Security officials, an immigration judge on Aug. 4 approved asylum for the woman, who is known only as L.R., because asylum cases are confidential. Her lawyers announced the decision on Thursday.

The outcome of the case of L.R., 43, brings new clarity to asylum law after almost 15 years of arcane and tangled litigation, when claims from domestic abuse victims were regularly dismissed by immigration judges.

“The Department of Homeland Security has recognized that asylum should be available to women who have suffered domestic violence and whose governments won’t protect them,” said Simona Agnolucci, a lawyer with the Howard Rice law firm in San Francisco who represented L.R. “Now the day finally came when the department said these are the criteria required to show a case for asylum.”

In the case of L.R., who first filed for asylum in 2005, Homeland Security Department officials had tipped their hand in papers they submitted in immigration court in April 2009. They confirmed that L.R. could be eligible for asylum as a domestic violence victim, but laid out narrowly defined requirements she would have to meet. Since then, her lawyers presented new evidence designed to meet those standards.

In a declaration in March, Alicia Elena Pérez Duarte y Noroña, a former special prosecutor in Mexico City for crimes against women, said L.R. could not turn for help to the police in Mexico because of “the enormous social and cultural tolerance of this abuse, resulting in the virtual complicity of authorities who should prevent and punish these violent acts.”

L.R. testified that she had asked Mexican courts for protection for herself and her two children. One judge had offered to help her if she would have sex with him, she said.

In a novel argument, a Mexican lawyer specializing in information access, Jimena Avalos Capin, declared that L.R. could not find safety by moving to any new location in Mexico because her common-law husband could easily track her down using the Internet. For L.R. to be able to work in her profession as a schoolteacher, Ms. Capin said, she would have to post her current address in a public registry.

L.R.’s lawyers said the case was not likely to lead to any new surge of refugees in the United States because the hurdles remain high for battered women.

“It shows what kind of evidence would be enough to make a case, but it doesn’t mean every case is successful,” said Karen Musalo, director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, who also represented L.R.

Homeland Security Department officials said they would proceed cautiously with asylum claims based on sexual abuse. “The department continues to view domestic violence as a possible basis for asylum in the United States,” said Matthew Chandler, an agency spokesman. But he said each case “requires scrutiny of the specific threat the applicant faces.”

The government and the courts never questioned the account L.R. gave of her treatment by a man who she said had first forced her to have sex with him when she was a teenager and he was her school athletics coach. Once when he discovered she was pregnant, she said, he set fire to the bed where she was sleeping.

Asylum was also granted to L.R.’s two sons, now 22 and 20 years old. After years of “extreme anxiety” over the case, Ms. Musalo said, L.R., who is living in California, is “ecstatic, grateful and relieved” that she will be able to remain in this country.

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