David Bennion: March 2008 Archives

no due process, no truth

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kurnaz pic.jpg
[Image: Murat Kurnaz, amnestyusa.org]

This story (via Yglesias) from 60 Minutes about America's clandestine prison system for foreign nationals has my jaw on the floor.  I didn't think I would be this easily shocked after the last seven years of abuse the Bill of Rights has undergone. 


The story is simply amazing. 

(CBS) At the age of 19, Murat Kurnaz vanished into America's shadow prison system in the war on terror. He was from Germany, traveling in Pakistan, and was picked up three months after 9/11. But there seemed to be ample evidence that Kurnaz was an innocent man with no connection to terrorism. The FBI thought so, U.S. intelligence thought so, and German intelligence agreed. But once he was picked up, Kurnaz found himself in a prison system that required no evidence and answered to no one.

The story Kurnaz told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley is a rare look inside that clandestine system of justice, where the government's own secret files reveal that an innocent man lost his liberty, his dignity, his identity, and ultimately five years of his life.


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the principal immigration agency in the U.S. and successor to the INS, is in dire need of reform from top to bottom.

The agency has completely failed to keep up with the predictable (and predicted) surge in naturalization applications last year stemming from upcoming elections and a substantial fee increase for naturalization applications—from $400 to $675.  In addition, a new instance of bribery and malfeasance at USCIS in New York shines light on a system predicated on arbitrary decisionmaking and very little oversight, conditions that breed corruption and abuse. 

Preemptive Update: After writing most of this post, I saw that Nina Bernstein at the NY Times has blown the Baichu story wide open (I initially saw a shorter version reported in the NY Daily News).  I’ll definitely have more to say about this later.

Damn Mexicans had a post up a while back mentioning that people had been asking about where to find immigration information online.  In belated response, I'm including below some resources, many of which I use on a regular basis in my work.  I can't say much about message boards since I don't visit most of them--from what I've seen, there is a little good information and a lot of bad.   Also, some of them have been overrun by trolls. 

I'll try to update this list below when new resources come to light (please send me any links I might have missed through the contact button on the sidebar or in comments below), and perhaps we can link to the list somewhere on the sidebar if people find it useful.

Please see the Important Note at the bottom of the page--in short, this is not intended to be a DIY guide, and you really should seek the assistance of an experienced attorney for any significant immigration matter.   

A new Rapid Response Network Hotline (1-800-308-0878) has been launched for migrants in New York and New Jersey to call at the time of contact with ICE.  Please distribute this information in any venues likely to reach migrants living in NY/NJ.  You can find the press release (pasted below) and promotional posters here.

Please note:

  • This number is not intended for nationwide use.  Unfortunately at present this number can only serve migrants in the New York/New Jersey area. 
  • This number should NOT be used for routine immigration inquiries.  It is meant to be called in emergencies only: DURING an ICE raid or upon contact with ICE officers.  This is a crucial time during which detention can potentially be avoided or negative legal consequences mitigated.
Together, we can help prevent raids and avoid the severe disruption to migrant communities that they cause.  We do this by informing migrants of their constitutional rights and by standing up for what we believe against an unjust and inhumane enforcement regime.

[Begin press release]

Apparently an incarceration ratio of 1 in 100, while good enough for U.S. citizen adults, is a little low for immigrants in the eyes of the feds. 

From Anna Gorman and Scott Glover at the LA Times (via Thoreau at Unqualified Offerings):

Federal authorities are cracking down on immigrants who were previously deported and then reentered the country illegally -- a crime that now makes up more than one-third of all prosecutions in Los Angeles and surrounding counties, a Times review of U.S. attorney's statistics shows.

Most of these prisoners were probably removed through an administrative removal proceeding after coming to the U.S. previously.  Most probably didn’t have access to counsel the first time around, which is just one of the due process violations prevalent in the pseudo-judicial immigration system.  But it’s ok, the government argues, because it’s “just a civil matter.”  No jail time involved—just “detention” on your way out of the country if you try to fight your case. 

But there are serious consequences if someone previously deported decides to come back to be with their children or spouse, or out of economic desperation.  Then the outcome of the previous administrative proceeding is used against them in criminal court.

stock exchange flag.jpgI was having trouble posting a comment to DREAMActivist's tough questions in a recent post at A Dream Deferred, so I thought I'd just put it up here.  It's kind of long for a comment, anyway.  I hope to have more to contribute to kyle and Dave Neiwert's conversation on putting forward an alternative paradigm for discussing issues of immigration and nationality, a conversation that really started before any of us were born and has been going on mostly unheeded for a long time.  I've been meaning to put my thoughts on this issue together in a more comprehensive fashion, but in the interest of continuing the conversation, here is an initial volley.

(Photo by Flickr user bnittoli used under Creative Commons 2.0 license.)

stop the SAVE Act

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The House GOP is pushing the SAVE Act to the floor, suspecting they only have a few months left to do as much legislative damage as possible before increased Democratic majorities make it too difficult, and desperate for a “gay marriage scare” type assault on a vulnerable minority that they hope will pay political dividends.  

If you ever thought you might get involved on this issue or think you might want to in the future, don’t wait … NOW is the time. 

Call your representative at 202-225-3121 (or find your rep's number here) and ask them not to sign the petition to discharge H.R. 4088, the Shuler-Tancredo Bill (the SAVE Act), and to vote NO on the SAVE Act if it comes to the floor.  Or utilize this simple online form to make your opinion heard. 

The discharge petition currently pushed by the GOP needs 218 signatures—at last count, it had 163

The restrictionist strategy of enforcement through attrition claimed another hardworking taxpayer last week.  A Brooklyn woman finally gave up her fight to stay in this country.  Already past retirement age, she works long nighttime shifts caring for disabled people.  Her employers and patients have nothing but praise for her.  But the stress of long years of trying to resolve her immigration status, after a string of mistakes committed by USCIS (including at one point sending her a welcome notice signaling the start of permanent resident status, then denying the case without informing her), finally led her to abandon her quest to stay in the country.  Nativists everywhere, rejoice--the low-wage ambitions of another softspoken terrorist grandma have been thwarted!

The combination of burdensome and incomprehensible rules, unjustifiably high fees (e.g., $340 for a work permit, often baselessly or mistakenly denied by USCIS, and $585 to appeal the decision--over $1,000 for a bare-bones DIY green card application), race-based decisionmaking cloaked in administrative discretion, and extraordinarily punitive enforcement measures have created a climate of hate and fear.  This situation didn't arise organically, nor is it an inevitable consequence of natural social and economic forces, as restrictionists would have us believe.  It is the carefully planned result of years of conservative organizing and legislative action, spearheaded since 1999 by the nativist caucus in the House.   

big_brother_award_f.jpgHave you ever:

  • Spoken with an accent? 
  • "Looked Mexican?"
  • Attended a pro-migrant rally?
  • Complained about the government?
  • Written a blog post about immigration?       

Watch out--ICE could come to your door, just like they came to the door of Kevin Crabtree, a San Francisco-based immigration lawyer. 

He filed a complaint after ICE showed up and demanded entry, failed to legally justify the reason for their search, and threatened to break his door down anyway.  Here is part of his complaint to ICE headquarters:

I am a citizen of the United States and an attorney at law.  I practice immigration law exclusively, with a particular focus on removal defense.  I consequently have frequent interactions with employees of USICE and USCIS in San Francisco.

So, it was an interesting coincidence that two ICE officers rang my doorbell this morning-having bypassed the street security gate and buzzer that most people understand to be an indication that the 12-unit apartment building is not open to the general public.  At 8:15 a.m., as I happened to be discussing case strategy on the phone with co-counsel regarding a bond hearing the same day, my apartment doorbell rang.

It turned out to be ICE agents in lukewarm pursuit of brown people to harass and lock up.  Crabtree told them to leave. 

After I closed the door, the unidentified male officer stated, "I'm going to kick your door down."  He also threatened me with prosecution for alien harboring.

Crabtree repeatedly asked the officers to produce a warrant.  They never did, instead relying on threats and intimidation to gain entry to a private citizen's home.  What they didn't anticipate was confronting an experienced immigration attorney who knew his rights and wasn't going to back down. 

As an American citizen, I feel that it is very important that the representatives of my own government respect the law rather than break it.  The conduct of the unidentified officer in threatening to kick down my door, though he obviously lacked the legal authority to do so, is indefensible.  Such behavior is unbecoming a federal law enforcement agent.  The officer's threat placed me in fear of my physical safety.

But for my training as a lawyer, I have little doubt that my rights would have been completely brushed aside.  By making criminal threats against my home and physical safety, threatening prosecution without probable cause or even reasonable suspicion, and refusing to respect my property rights, the officers clearly sought to dissuade the exercise of my constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

. . .

ICE officers undergo extensive training on immigration and constitutional law.  I have no doubt that the conduct of the above officers was knowing and willful.  This incident also appears to be just one example of a pattern of constitutional violations in recent times by ICE officers, suggesting the agency has adopted a policy of aggressive violations of constitutional rights in its enforcement efforts.

New York City residents, take note: I've now heard reports in NYC of Long Island-style random ICE raids on apartment buildings where ICE agents kick down the door ostensibly looking for a particular individual but then sweep up everyone in sight who "looks illegal" and can't produce immigration papers.  As far as I know, this is a recent development--before, ICE raids within the five boroughs were more limited, with agents going to homes and businesses looking for particular individuals.  This new approach represents a full-scale assault on one of the country's most vibrant, multiethnic economic engines.  New Yorkers should not sit back and watch federal storm troopers invade our communities.  "First they came for the undocumented migrant workers" . . . you know how this ends. 

One wonders if next the government will reopen Ellis Island for one of its original purposes: to detain immigrants awaiting deportation.  Part T. Don Hutto, part Alcatraz, nativists around the country will proudly herald this reclamation of a lesser-known function of America's favorite gateway.  Welcome to the restrictionist vision of the future!

[Image: Wired/Privacy International]

Thumbnail image for matrix spoon.jpg"Do not try to bend the spoon; that's impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth: There is no spoon."  --The bald kid from the Matrix.
 
Symsess, who has been lately gracing this blog with daily immigration round-ups, made a good point over at American Humanity.

Two things that I hear in the immigration reform rhetoric trouble me a little and they are "pay a significant fine" and "go to the back of the line." What 'line' are they talking about. As far as I know there is no line of people from many countries south of the border because they are excluded from the immigration lottery each year. I'm sure I don't know enough about the ins and outs of this process, but I'd certainly like clarification on what "back of the line" means.

This article quotes Obama:

"We have to require that undocumented workers, who are provided a pathway to citizenship, not only learn English, pay back taxes and pay a significant fine, but also that they're going to the back of the line," he said.

I hear this "line" referred to in two contexts.  One is the context I think Obama is talking about, where some future version of comprehensive immigration reform would provide a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants now here in the U.S.  He seems to be saying that these people would have to wait some period of time before they could become citizens.  


what is the what cover.jpg

I'll continue now with the second part of my review of What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, by Dave Eggers.  The first part was here, in case you missed it. 

The book illuminates a rather serious problem for migrants and migrant advocates.  Migrants often come to the U.S. or other wealthy countries with unreasonable expectations.  I remember from elementary school the song from An American Tail: "There are noooo cats in Ame-ri-ca, and the streets are filled with chee-eese."  The intrepid mice quickly find both these assumptions to be false.  Likewise, many Lost Boys seem to have believed their problems would be over once they made it to the U.S.  They were wrong: