Wednesday, June 25, 2008
The link for this is http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-06-24-Immigration-raids_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip
(June 24, 2008)
Citizens sue after detentions, immigration raids
By Emily Bazar, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES — Nitin Dhopade, the chief financial officer for Micro Solutions Enterprises, was headed toward the accounting department on the afternoon of Feb. 7 to deliver checks he had just signed. Suddenly, he says, he encountered armed men and women wearing bulletproof vests and uniforms branded with "ICE," which stands for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Dhopade, 47, says he and 30 other administrative workers for the Van Nuys, Calif., company, which recycles used toner and ink cartridges, were marched down a stairwell lined by officers. The workers were ordered against a wall and told not to touch anything or use their cellphones. "There was no way you could leave. You were definitely detained," he says. "None of us were in handcuffs, but there was no way you could say 'I'm leaving.' "
That marked the beginning of a surprise raid that would result in the arrests of 138 suspected illegal immigrants, about one-fifth of MSE's workforce. Also swept up in the same raid were more than 100 U.S. citizens and legal residents, including Dhopade, a naturalized U.S. citizen from India. They say they were illegally detained at the factory for an hour when ICE agents blocked the doors and interrogated them, forbidding them to leave or go to the bathroom without an escort.
Whether their brief detention was a mere inconvenience or a flagrant violation of their constitutional rights is the subject of a growing debate that seems likely to be resolved in federal court. Immigration officials, charged with enforcing the law against the estimated 12 million undocumented foreigners in the USA, are mounting more raids at slaughterhouses, restaurants and factories.
Increasingly, U.S. citizens and legal residents who work alongside illegal immigrants are being detained and interrogated, too. And some, such as Dhopade, are filing claims or lawsuits against the government.
Dhopade says he was a victim of racial profiling by ICE. An ICE agent questioned him about his immigration status and his ability to speak English "because of my skin color," he says. "None of the white folks in the office … that I know of were asked for proof of citizenship. To be asked for proof of citizenship, in this country, it's an insult. This is the United States of America. This country does not require that."
In other immigration raids, citizens and legal, permanent residents have been taken to jail. Jesus Garcia, a former Texas poultry worker, was handcuffed and spent more than 30 hours in ICE custody this year, part of that time in jail. Two co-workers, both citizens, also were arrested. No charges were filed against them.
In April, the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law, a public interest law firm here, filed claims for damages on behalf of 114 MSE employees, all citizens or legal permanent residents, also called green-card holders. The claims allege that they were subjected to "false imprisonment" and "detention without justification" and seek $5,000 each in damages from the federal government.
The lawsuits and claims against the government are part of a strategy by immigration lawyers to halt or change workplace raids. Peter Schey, president and executive director of the center, acknowledges that "we're hoping the prospect of thousands of U.S. citizens over time filing claims for damages against the United States government might cause (ICE) to reconsider how these raids are conducted."
"You cannot in this country engage in group detentions of large numbers of people because you think a smaller number within the larger group has done something wrong," Schey says. At the Van Nuys plant, ICE "created a powerful atmosphere of fear and intimidation. People felt like they had been taken hostage."
The rationale for the raids
Julie Myers, the Department of Homeland Security's assistant secretary for ICE, says federal law, Supreme Court decisions and search warrants give ICE the authority to enter workplaces to question "all the people inside," including citizens. She declines to discuss the MSE case, citing the ongoing investigation. But she says ICE agents work fast to separate legal workers from suspected illegal ones.
"When we go in, a lot of people are pretending to be U.S. citizens, and then there are some people who are," she says. "Our goal is to make sure we work as quickly and efficiently as we can so that U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are free to go."
The stepped-up enforcement protects U.S. workers, she says. "We're trying to create a culture of compliance … so that businesses would start to have incentives to hire only people who are legally entitled to work here."
Workplace arrests by ICE in 2007 were 10 times what they were in 2002. Last year, the agency charged 863 people with criminal violations, such as identity theft, and 4,077 for allegedly being in the country illegally. In 2002, ICE made 25 criminal and 485 immigration-related arrests. Workers arrested on criminal charges face jail time; those accused of being in the country illegally are subject to deportation.
So far this year, ICE has made 850 criminal arrests and detained 2,900 people on immigration violations.
ICE has three primary targets, Myers says: workers who steal the identities of U.S. citizens, such as those who use someone else's Social Security number to gain employment; work sites such as airports and naval bases, which could be particularly vulnerable to terrorist threats; and what Myers calls "egregious employers" — those who knowingly hire illegal workers.
Barbara Coe, chairwoman of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, says raids "are providing the incentive for at least some of these illegal aliens to get out of here before they are deported. I don't think there are enough raids. There should be more." She says she's sorry legal residents are sometimes questioned during raids but believes ICE needs time to determine who is here legally.
So does Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. "It's not the end of the world," he says of citizens who are detained. "These people were briefly inconvenienced. Too bad."
'My heart was racing'
Denise Shippy, nine months pregnant the day of the MSE raid, says it was more than an inconvenience.
She had planned to take off that afternoon for parent-teacher conferences and a doctor's appointment. But Shippy, 30, needed to train a receptionist to fill in for her while she was on maternity leave, so she took her two children to the office with her. The raid occurred as she settled Cassidy, 7, and Ricky, 9, into the mailroom for lunch.
As she left the mailroom, Shippy found the lobby filled with ICE agents, and she, the children and co-workers were herded in there. When Shippy tried to respond to an e-mail, she says, one ICE agent said, "Stop typing."
"My rights were violated," Shippy says. "I am a citizen of this United States. I was born here. I'm not who they're looking for. I wasn't allowed to leave. … I couldn't go anywhere and couldn't do anything. Neither could my children."
Although she was upset, she tried to calm her kids, she says. She needed to use the restroom, but held off because she didn't want an agent to accompany her.
"I didn't want to scare the heck out of my kids," she says. "I was trying to be cool and calm for my children. My heart was racing."
At one point, agents started escorting handcuffed workers — suspected illegal immigrants — from the factory floor out the front door. Her children asked why the workers were handcuffed, what they had done wrong and what would happen to them, she says.
"That was when I started getting angry," she says. "My kids should not have had to watch these things. They saw people being led out in handcuffs. These are people who are recognizable to my children."
Shippy, who gave birth to a boy on Feb. 19, returned to work June 9 and says she still feels justified in filing a claim.
"I'm not some money-hungry person," she says. "This is something I'm pretty passionate about. It shouldn't have happened the way it did."
Debate over the law
As long as ICE has a warrant to enter a workplace, Myers says, agents can conduct what she calls a "survey" to determine the legal status of "anyone within the premises."
She cites a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that said factory surveys during immigration raids don't amount to an unconstitutional detention or seizure of those being questioned, even U.S. citizens.
In its ruling, however, the Supreme Court emphasized that the employees in the factory were not prevented from moving around, continuing to work or leaving. The current raids are different from those the Supreme Court approved, Schey says.
ICE can question workers as long as the interaction is voluntary, "but what they're doing (now) is not that," he says, because workers think they have no choice except to answer questions — which may incriminate those here illegally.
Many workers caught in raids don't know they're not obligated to respond, regardless of their immigration status, says Kevin Johnson, dean of the University of California-Davis, law school. ICE "can ask people questions. That doesn't mean people have to respond," he says.
Schey suspects ICE is using search warrants as a pretext to enter workplaces and then arrest as many people as it can to get publicity. "It's in effect a group detention," he says, "not supported by probable cause, … not supported by any law."
Michael Wishnie, a professor at Yale Law School, argues that ICE cannot legally detain or arrest anyone without reasonable suspicion that a specific person broke the law. People should not be detained simply because "they work in the same factory as the person" for whom ICE has warrant, he says.
Kris Kobach, who teaches law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, counters that police sometimes have to detain a large group to find the lawbreakers among them. He cites, as an example, police looking for two drug dealers in a house where 10 people live. In such a drug raid, "police will reasonably close the doors to the house and detain everybody," he says.
The factory's owners
No fines or charges have been levied against MSE or its managers.
Brothers Avi and Yoel Wazana, immigrants from Israel, started the company in 1994. Last year, net revenue was $95 million. At MSE's headquarters, a 225,000-square-foot building in Van Nuys, workers clean, disassemble, reassemble and test old printer cartridges. Before the raid, MSE employed about 700 people here.
Myers declined to say what prompted the raid. However, ICE began auditing the company in May 2007, focusing on "I-9 forms," which employers use to document employees' legal status. As part of the I-9 process, employers must inspect at least two documents that show identity and legal status, including U.S. passports, Social Security cards or green cards.
MSE was "in compliance with I-9 requirements," says Schey, who also represents the company. "If some of the documents workers presented were fraudulent," MSE has "no way of determining that."
The next month, the company voluntarily began using a government database to verify the status of new hires, he says. Then the company didn't hear from the government for months, Schey says.
"They expected a letter," he says. "Instead, on Feb. 7, ICE comes in like gangbusters."
About 100 ICE agents raided the factory between 3:30 and 4 p.m., says Nora Preciado, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. Armed with a federal search warrant, they arrested 130 workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and other countries on suspicion of being in the country illegally. ICE also had arrest warrants for eight others, who were picked up at their homes or the factory. These eight, identified by ICE during the earlier check of documents, face criminal charges for making false claims of U.S. citizenship or presenting false documents.
Five people arrested in the raids have been deported, ICE says. The others remain, some in detention, some not, while fighting their deportation orders in court.
Avi Wazana did not comment on the cases against his former employees or the methods MSE used to check their immigration status. In an e-mail after the raid, however, he told some of his customers that "MSE … has rejected hundreds (possibly more) of applicants … due to improper documentation."
The ACLU and other legal aid groups sued ICE, saying the detained MSE workers should have been allowed access to attorneys when they reported for interviews after the raid. U.S. District Court Judge George Wu agreed, and ordered ICE to stop interviewing workers. ICE has since allowed lawyers to be present at any interview with MSE workers.
One of the workers interviewed without an attorney present was Maria, a 39-year-old Pacoima resident who worked at MSE for eight years. She asked that her last name not to be used, on the advice of her attorney. "I felt like I had to answer" questions from ICE, she says. "I didn't know about my rights."
Maria was a supervisor in charge of eight line workers. She says she entered the USA illegally 15 years ago from Mexico so she could give her children a better education. One of her three children, a 14-year-old girl, is a U.S. citizen.
Maria says she'll fight to remain in the USA because she doesn't want to be separated from her family, especially her daughter. The girl's father, Maria's longtime partner, is a U.S. citizen and will care for their daughter if Maria is deported.
"She's not going to leave," Maria says of the girl, an eighth-grader. "This is her country."
Jailed 'over a mistake'
ICE's raids foster discrimination, says Domingo Garcia, attorney for the League of United Latin American Citizens. "There's a lot of racial profiling. … If you look like a Hispanic, you're detained or arrested."
He says he plans to file a class-action, civil rights lawsuit on behalf of legal workers detained in raids, including Jesus Garcia, 27, a green-card holder from Mount Pleasant, Texas. Domingo Garcia says he will ask the court to prohibit ICE from conducting raids until it changes its policies to prevent racial profiling.
ICE agents went to Jesus Garcia's home on April 16 in conjunction with a raid on a nearby Pilgrim's Pride poultry processing plant, where he worked marinating chicken meat. Garcia, from Mexico, has been a legal permanent resident for a year and a half. When about 10 ICE agents and local sheriff's deputies knocked on his door, they told him he was using the wrong Social Security number, says his wife, Olivia Garcia, a U.S. citizen.
Though Garcia showed the agents his green card, they handcuffed him and jailed him. He was released a day and a half later after agents told him he wasn't the person they wanted, he says. He had spent the night in jail. "He said it was pretty bad," Olivia says. "People were crying and screaming."
Jesus Garcia, who has since left Pilgrim's Pride for another job, says the mishap cost him three days of work. "I worked hard to get my residency," he says. "And to take me to jail just over a mistake?"
Friday, June 20, 2008
as long as they are picked up for a traffic violation. (He admits those detained for ICE were largely picked up for traffic violations.)
In other words, get picked up for a fender bender or DUI in Frederick County, Maryland, and instead of being released for time served, which is usually what happens in such cases, if you are of Mexican descent you could find yourself being turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement until you prove your US citizenship. (And, as shown in previous posts, sometimes even that isn't enough.)
Antonio Ramirez, a 20 year resident of Frederick County, told the Governor's Commission of Hispanic Affairs on Wednesday that when he walked down the main street in town people call him a "wetback."
"I am a citizen, and I am afraid," he said. "Now I understand what the Jewish people went through. "(Frederick County Sheriff) Jenkins is destroying families and the economy."And no wonder. Most of the police and sheriff departments turning US citizens over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement claim they are only detaining aliens. Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins responded to Ramirez's charges by saying: "There's no one in that detention center (who hasn't) broken the law."
I had asked the person who told me about this event to post it in a "reply" to the blog, mentioning that people seem to prefer to write me directly rather than posting. Here's what I received:
I think people may be fearful to post to your blog. If you think about it, ICE's system is the perfect tool to silence dissent. Once a person ends up in the immigration system due process is flushed down the toilet.
Below is a link to an article from my local newspaper regarding the meeting I attended the other night.
Here's some background (I will try to be brief) on what is going on in my community. Frederick County, Maryland is maybe 1.5 hours north of Prince William County, Virginia. During the 1990s one of the entrants into the local demolition derby drove a klan car. Even today, it is not uncommon to see confederate flags.
When the current sheriff ran for office in 2006 he ran on an anti-immigrant platform. When he got into the office he started working on obtaining 287(g) authority for his office. He claimed that he "needed" this authority because crime is out of control due to the large influx in of "illegal" immigrants (now synonymous with Latino/Hispanic in my town).
Interestingly, data from the FBI's uniform crime database and the Census doesn't seem to support the Sheriff's assertion. In February 2008 the Frederick County Sheriff's Office signed a Memorandum of Agreement with ICE. There was no public discussion, in fact the director of the county's Human Relations Division sent him a copy of questions, and she left it to his discretion as to whether to respond.
The last time the President of the local NAACP spoke with him about meeting, the Sheriff said what's the point, I don't understand what the objectives are. He also said that we have nothing we shouldn't be worried about profiling or discrimination, because ICE is monitoring how he uses 287(g) authority. Obviously he missed the entire 2007 ICE Halloween Party incident.
Now the Sheriff does have time to meet with the local Republican Club, including minutemen and help save Maryland members. During his presentation he said that 48 people had been detained using 287(g) authority, and mostly for traffic infractions. If his assertion is correct I'd think that most of those detained would have been picked up for committing felonies, or at least misdemeanors.
Our sheriff has asked people in public meetings if they are illegal, and at one meeting with people from the Latino community he said something like I'm a redneck and I wish my county were the way it was 30 years ago.
Your blog is definitely a must read, and I've been telling other friends in the community about it.
My guess is that wherever you are, this is happening where you live, too. If you have any examples of this you'd like to share, feel free to send them my way and I'll post them here. Also, this image of Sheriff Chuck Jenkins is from the Frederick County home page; maybe he needs some more mail on this supporting the writer above.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
This continues the documentation of US citizens who have been deported or detained by ICE in the last three years, described in my Nation article "Thin ICE" (pub date June 23, 2008). ICE has no jurisdiction over US citizens.
-A boy with a Vietnamese mother was residing in the US with his mother who was naturalized in the US when he was 14; he has derived citizenship. But the client, then in his early 30s, was placed in the Mira Loma Detention by ICE on release from jail. After one year in detention he signed the deportation order; as his lawyer put it to me, "he traded his citizenship rights for his liberty." He wanted to be released from detention because his own wife was due to give birth and he wanted to be with his family and help support them. His citizenship case was complicated, as many cases of citizenship often are for those who are foreign born. He needed documentation from Vietnam of the conditions of his mother's departure while she was being beaten by his father, and his lawyer also was navigating the custody laws of Vietnam and the United States. His client knew that Vietnam does not issue travel documents for people who enter before 1996 and that ICE would have to release him within 90 days. (Source: private immigration attorney, Los Angeles)
-A man in his thirties was born in the United States, two miles from the Mexican border. His mother obtained a birth certificate for him from a nearby town in Mexico, but he really was born in the United States. Immigration judge issues order terminating deportation proceedings. ICE appeals order. Man remains in detention.
-Man in his early 20s, born in Mexico, living with his mother in San Bernadino, California. His mother, a naturalized citizen, from whom client derives citizenship, decides to do a favor for the neighbor and drive the neighbor's grandson, a Mexican citizen, across the border. "Mom convinced him: let's help the neighbor's grandkid." The mother asks her son to come with her "for moral support." They get caught. He serves two years in prison for alien smuggling. On release he is put into deportation proceedings. Attorney intervenes and client is released from Mira Loma Detention Center after being held for two months. (Source: private immigration attorney, Los Angeles.)
Are these cases "borderline," confusing? Or is the border itself the source of confusion?
The image above is of Nogales. Can you tell which side is Mexico and which the US?
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
To supplement the reporting on ICE kidnapping and falsely imprisoning US citizens in my Nation article "Thin ICE" (pub date June 23, 2008) I have been providing additional profiles of these cases as well as the sources for the article's statistics and other facts.
This post continues that documentation:
The 2008 ACLU lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and the Los Angeles County Sheriff on behalf of Peter Guzman, a US citizen born in Los Angeles and "deported" to Mexico by ICEhere. ICE calls it deportation, but the law says that when Guzman told ICE he was born in the US, ICE was supposed to accept his word on this, or prove otherwise. I believe that the government's racial prejudices are not an excuse and that what appears as a case of confusion is simply kidnapping and false imprisonment based on racial profiling.
The February 13, 2008 Congressional hearings in which Department of Homeland Security repeatedly obfuscates, much to the consternation of the Democrats, is available streaming and is a case study in the problems of an Executive branch run amok. The written testimony is available as well. It's here. You might write Congressman Zoe Lofgren, who has been ahead of the curve on the problem of ICE abuses, as well as your representatives and Senators, and let them know how you feel about ICE forcibly removing US citizens from our country.
The estimate of US citizens who were detained for at least one month or deported is based on several sources. The most important is the actual caseload of the Florence Immigration and Refugee Rights Project in southern Arizona. 10% of detainees from around the country are held in their service area. (I write about people to whom FIRRP provided legal advice from Minnesota to California.)
The supervising attorney, Kara Hartzler, told me that they were seeing between 5 to 10 cases a week of people claiming US citizenship, of which between one-third to one-half were recognized as legitimate by an immigration judge. The rest is math: take the total number of these cases and multiply by 10. At the low end of the range, 5 x 224 weeks (the number of weeks between January 2004 and April 2008) = 1120, multiplied by .33 (1/3 successful) is 370 for FIRRP alone. At the high end for the FIRRP estimate, 10 x 224 = 2240; if half (.5) are valid claims, that that would be 1120 cases for FIRRP.
In other words, the range for FIRRP's estimate of its own caseload of US citizens detained or deported by ICE (through coerced "voluntary" agreements signed to avoid more incarceration during ICE appeals of immigration judges' orders terminating deportation) is 370 to 1120. Multiply this by 10, and, if this caseload is representative - the numbers are large enough that there's no reason to quibble with this statistically - indicates that between 2004 and April, 2008 ICE has detained or deported between 3700 and 11,200 US citizens.
This figure is slightly higher than the 3,500 to 10,000 range I used in the article because I wanted to use the ICE denominator of 1 million deportations from 2004-2007, a round number that shows the range I'm estimating is less than 1% of ICE deportations and detentions. The reason to think the FIRRP estimate might be too conservative is what Robert told me of his detention experiences, and his encounter with a large number of US citizens in a situation similar to his own, leading him to say that ICE was "just throwing us out for nothing."
I also verified the high frequency of these deportations by interviewing over a dozen immigration attorneys from across the country, who affirmed their own personal representation of clients who were US citizens in deportation proceedings. It was too easy for just one person doing this research with no other support to find these cases on an ad hoc basis.
As I mentioned in the article, I used the list of pro bono attorneys the Department of Justice is required to make available (and which is a joke, because many of the numbers are disconnected or incorrect: one was for a florist!). Among the working numbers, I called 15 immigration attorneys and 7 returned my calls to report 1-4 cases of US citizens they had successfully represented who had been held by ICE for 1 month to, in the case of Robert, 5 years. The link to that list is here.
TO BE CONTINUED... (Photo is Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, D-CA, Chair, House Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law.)
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
UPDATE: Yesterday ICE appealed, yet again, a judge's order to terminate the removal proceedings against Neil Rambana's client, a US citizen. Despite the fact that immigration judge William Cassidy issued orders in 2006 and 2008 terminating David's deportation, David remains incarcerated. For more, see "US Citizen Falsely Imprisoned by ICE" (Georgia).
In The Nation article (pub. date June 23, 2008) "Thin ICE," in addition to the profiles of several US citizens whom ICE falsely imprisoned for up to five years, I mention a few statistics. No room to explain in the article, or to review the plights of all 30+ US citizens, but in the next few days I'll elaborate.
The first number I mention is the 276,912 US residents ICE deported in 2007. This figure is straight from an online publication by the Department of Homeland Security, FY07 US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Accomplishments. This states:
"ICE implemented a comprehensive interior enforcement strategy focused on more efficiently processing apprehended illegal aliens and reducing the numbers of criminal and fugitive aliens in the United States. In FY07, ICE removed a record 276,912 illegal aliens, including voluntary removals, from the United States."
This high figure is indeed alarming. It means that, like the Nazi government in prewar Germany, the US government has been combing the country for longtime residents and then removing them from the country on the grounds that they are not citizens.
Most of those being deported are being found through the jails and prisons, taken in secret to detention facilities without any notice to their families, and indeed, lying to relatives by saying that the locations are not known. Here's how ICE describes what it's up to:
"ICE’s Criminal Alien Program, which screens aliens in prison to ensure that they are removed from the United States upon the completion of their sentences, initiated removal proceedings against 164,296 criminal aliens."
The problem documented in "Thin ICE" is that many of those deported are actually US citizens. An additional problem is that virtually all of the people who are deported from the prisons and jails are longterm US residents, many of whom were picked up for minor infractions or misdemeanors such as drunk driving and failing to stop for the police, prostitution, possessing a small amount of methamphetamines or marijuana, a barroom brawl perhaps years after a bench warrant was issued when someone failed to show up for a traffic violation. (These examples are drawn from cases with I am familiar.)
Again, think Nazi Germany: you're a Jew taken into the police for drunk driving after a fight with your girlfriend and suddenly no one knows where you are. Or your mother goes to work in the morning and you come home after school and she's gone and no one knows where she is. I am not describing Germany during the 1940s, during the death camps, but in the 1930s when the Nazi government started to make doing business with Jews illegal, and then being Jewish was illegal. This is happening here. This is happening now. I am not suggesting that the next step is death camps, but that this current activity is despicable in itself.
More on the rest of the numbers in "Thin ICE" tomorrow.
Monday, June 16, 2008
In the article "Thin ICE" published in The Nation magazine (pub. date June 23, 2008), I wrote that since 2004 between 3,500 to 10,000 US citizens had been detained by ICE for one month to five years, and that about half of these citizens had been deported. I also wrote that I had documented 31 of these cases. I have now revised these numbers upward, based on new information on additional cases.
These figures are important because they refute ICE's position that they have deported just one US citizen and that they "do not knowingly detain US citizens." By knowingly detaining US citizens, over whom ICE has no jurisdiction, ICE agents are committing the crime of false imprisonment. When they move US citizens, especially out of the country, against their will, then ICE agents are committing the crime of kidnapping. The attorneys for the people involved have the data from the immigration courts, the prisons, and the documents to back this up. All that is needed is for just a single US attorney to step forward and use this information for a criminal prosecution.
For instance, the case of Neil Rambana's client in Georgia, at the very least has an immigration judge postdating a 2006 order terminating removal proceedings for a US citizen to a 2008 termination order, apparently to justify the continuous illegal incarceration of a US citizen since 2006. He remains incarcerated. (For more on this case, see here and articles tagged David.)
Starting today I will be providing more information on the many cases whose details could not be presented in the Nation article due to space constraints. If anyone wants more information to follow up with the attorneys, please contact me and I can provide that.
There are three types of natural-born citizens, distinct from naturalized citizens. The cases below are all US natural-born citizens, either by birth in the US, or acquired or derived from parents who are US citizens, as was the case for John McCain and George Romney. ICE has no jurisdiction over US citizens.
Under the law anyone telling ICE she was born in the US is presumed to be a US citizen. In order to detain this person, ICE must prove the person is lying. This did not happen in these cases. As you read these, many questions will occur. (For instance, in the case below, why would a police officer write down that someone born in the US was born in Belize?) At some point it may be important to answer these questions--are officers harassing difficult suspects by the use of incorrect place of birth information, knowing this will put people in ICE detention? Are officers racist and trying to deport African-Americans?) The only way to get to the bottom of this is through more local police oversight, Congressional oversight, and, when necessary, civil and criminal prosecutions.
Other cases, with pseudonyms for purpose of easier discussion:
-Eva, Los Angeles resident, African-American woman born in the United States (state unknown) and arrested in February 2008, for a minor drug possession charge. The arresting officer wrote that Eva was born in Belize. Eva has never been to Belize. She was put in ICE custody and taken to the Florence Detention Center in Arizona, where she was held for two months as she saved $1 day from working in the detention center to pay for her birth certificate. (Source: Florence Immigration and Refugee Rights Program social worker)
-MarK, Washington state resident, California-born US citizens. Mark was stopped for minor criminal activity and turned over to ICE. Mark had moved from California to Washington when he was three years old. The ICE agent did not believe this statement and, without any proof, wrote that Mark had emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. when he was three. Mark had never stepped foot in Mexico until he was 20. Mark was was held in Takoma and somewhere in Alabama for a total of 9 months. Even though there were no legal grounds for his detention, he was not released until a court hearing, when his pro bono attorney presented Mark's California vaccination records from when Mark was two. The attorney believes that if his mother had not been able to produce this record, then his client would have been deported. No birth certificate was avaialable because Mark's mother was not in the country legally and, fearful of deportation, gave birth in a private home. (Source: (Source: Jorge Barón, Executive Director, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project [NIRP])
-Jason, U.S. citizenship derived from parents who naturalized before he was 18. Born in Belize. Held in detention in California (Mira Loma, I think) for two months after release from prison. (Source: private immigration attorney, Los Angeles).
-John, U.S. citizenship derived from parents who had naturalized before he was 18. Born in Ethiopia. Detained in Takoma over 6 months, NIRP only found out because a self-styled jailhouse lawyer/detainee brought this case to their attention. (Source: Barón, NIRP)
-Michael, U.S. citizenship derived from mother who naturalized before he was 18. Michael was born in Mexico. Michael was held by ICE for four years during his appeals. The FIRRP attorney advising him, but without the time to appear with him during the hearings, was stunned to learn that the judge did not accept the evidence her staff had assembled that clearly documented his US citizenship. Rather than endure more time in Eloy, after four years Michael gave up and signed the deportation order and was removed to Mexico before the FIRRP attorney could see him again.
TO BE CONTINUED!
The image above is from a 2007 protest against the Takoma Detention Center, where Mark and John, US natural-born citizens, were held for several months. See article at Indymedia, Portland here.
Friday, June 13, 2008
David, not his real name, had served almost eight years of a ten year prison sentence in Georgia. He was a model inmate, completing his GED and a variety of training classes. With his certificate in geology, David can tell you the right place to look for a woolly mammoth and with his barber training, make sure you won't look like one. If ICE were not running an illegal prison system, right now David, a US citizen, would have served his time and been free for over two years, starting his new life.
Instead, David remains incarcerated in Wilcox Prison. His attorney, Neil Rambana, is, as he puts it, “playing Sherlock Holmes” to try to figure out how ICE, the Georgia Department of Corrections, and the immigration courts arranged to falsely imprison his client and then cover up their misdeed.
Referring to the June 11, 2008 termination from Judge Cassidy, Rambana says: “When they have on the first page that on May 13 he ruled that the respondent had acquired US citizenship at birth, that's a wrong date. In my mind it's obfuscation. We need to get to the bottom of it now.”
The bottom line is that ICE falsely imprisoned David and Rambana caught the immigration court trying to cover this up.
Rambana's not just a sleuth also a terrific advocate. He drove three hours from his offices in Florida to Wilcox Prison in Georgia yesterday and was able to meet with David. Unfortunately, the warden did not honor Judge Cassidy's June 11, 2008 termination order – new parole restrictions were imposed very recently as a post hoc excuse -- and David remains falsely imprisoned. Rambana's priority now is to “move full force to see what the Department of Corrections is going to do to honor the termination order.”
Just the facts:
-In February, 2006 Georgia released David on parole from the Georgia Correctional and into ICE custody.
-ICE held David in the Fulton County jail from February, 2006 until August 31, 2006 during ICE removal proceedings. David wrote the immigration judge Judge William Cassidy a letter explaining that David is a US citizen. David's case was sent to Neil Rambana's office because they do pro bono work for immigrants in ICE custody in the Southeast. Rambana said that if David "had not written that letter, he would have been deported."
-On August 31, 2006 Judge Cassidy issued an order terminating the deportation proceedings. At that date, ICE and the state of Georgia were required to release David. ICE reserved the right to appeal the termination order, but they did not file an appeal. David himself verified that he should have been released by calling the 800 number for the Immigration Courts and punching in his information. The voice recording said that his deportation proceedings had been terminated.
-On August 31, 2006, David continued to be held in Fulton County Jail. The jail told ICE that they had no authority to hold David after the termination proceedings, but instead of releasing him, ICE transferred David to Baldwin Diagnostic Center. He was then shuffled around a few other places. Rambana tried to contact David at the Fulton County Jail and was told he was not there. So Rambana assumed, since the termination order had been issued, that David had been released.
-On May 12, 2008 Rambana was shocked to receive correspondence that David was again in removal proceedings. He assumed that David was picked up for a parole violation and reincarcerated, and then wrongfully put in to deportation proceedings. (Rambana learned only yesterday that David had never been released.) On May 12, Rambana promptly faxed Judge Cassidy a copy of Cassidy's original August 31, 2006 termination order.
-On May 13, 2008 Judge Cassidy issued an order for a telephonic hearing on May 19, 2008. Rambana has this order.
-On May 19, 2008 the telephonic hearing was rescheduled for June 2, 2008 because the Judge missed the window Rambana had arranged for the hearing and it was not available by the time the Judge contacted his office.
-On June 2, 2008, Rambana planned for the rescheduled telephonic hearing but the Judge never called.
-On June 6, 2008, Judge Cassidy called and apologized. There had been an execution in Wilcox Prison on that date, and he said that the government had appealed his decision to terminate proceeding. Rambana told me, “We had no idea about what he was talking about.”
-On June 11, 2008 I published a post on my blog about Rambana's client and contacted someone in a government office that oversees ICE. This person made some inquiries into the matter.
-Late on June 11, 2008, Judge William Cassidy issued an order terminating removal proceedings. The order states that on May 13, 2008 he had issued a previous termination order and that ICE had appealed this order. The June 11 statement makes no reference to Judge Cassidy's August 31, 2006 termination order
David remains in prison and is completely confused. “He doesn't understand why he's still there because he was supposed to be paroled in February, 2006.”
Afternoon of 6/13, from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) timeline. An EOIR officer looked into David's case and sent me this:
"-0n 08/31/06, an immigration judge terminated Mr. Fernandez-Armedariz’s case.
-On 09/29/06, the Department of Homeland Security appealed the immigration judge’s decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
-On 03/10/08, the Board of Immigration Appeals remanded the case back to the immigration judge.
-On 06/11/08, the immigration judge terminated the case."
EOIR records at the very least prove that Judge Cassidy altered the timeline of his decisions and ICE appeals in his 6/13/08 decision. And they show that David was falsely imprisoned at the very least from 8/31/06 until 9/29/06, and possibly much longer, depending on whether ICE actually did file an appeal and if was legal for them to hold him while it was pending and without notifying his attorney that this was happening.
ICE and the immigration courts are turning the Constitutional protections of US citizens' liberty into a perverse parlor game of backdating, postdating, and lying about who is in custody, why people are in custody, and when they should be released. The underlying legal and political problem remains: A US citizen was held by ICE the Georgia Department of Corrections because of ICE removal proceedings from February, 2006 until June 11, 2008. As everyone knows, including ICE, ICE has no jurisdiction over US citizens.
David is presently under the control of the Georgia Corrections Department, but his attorney, Rambana, believes they have illegally altered the conditions of his parole from those given in February 2006 and is demanding David's immediate release. Unfortunately, the unlawful conflation of ICE detention with the prison system means that someone with an expertise in immigration law now must maneuver the criminal justice system as well.
The people who should really need criminal lawyers are not be US citizens in illegal detention, but the government thugs violating Congressional mandate of ICE as well as the Constitution and civil rights laws by falsely imprisoning US citizens and other legal residents. Who will be the first US attorney to step up and charge one of these ICE agents with their crimes? (And what is the penalty, if any, for a judge lying about his previous decisions in his own order?)
Thursday, June 12, 2008
David, not his real name, was born in Mexico in 1973. His father was born in Los Angeles in 1925 and met other criteria consistent with David acquiring citizenship by birth. On March 1, 1989 the US Consular General's office in Mexico issued David a letter from the Vice Consul certifying that David had "proved to the Consulate General that he had acquired citizenship" (from Judge Cassidy's June 11, 2008 decision for ICE to terminate deportation proceedings).
In late 1998 David was incarcerated for a crime that had nothing to do with his citizenship status. In 2006, David was to be released on probation, but ICE had other ideas and put him into deportation proceedings. According to Neil Rambana, David's attorney, David was held for 8 months pending a deportation hearing. In August, 2006, Judge William Cassidy accepted the US Consulate General letter certifying David's US citizenship and terminated the deportation proceedings.
Rambana wrote yesterday: "To our surprise on or about May 12, 2008 I received a notice of hearing for May 19, 2008." Rambana replied immediately and referenced the 2006 termination order.
According to Judge Cassidy's decison yesterday, "On May 13, 2008, based on the evidence submitted by Respondent, the court determined that Respondent acquired United States citizenship at birth. As a result Respondent was improperly in removal proceedings and the court terminated proceedings."
Rambana never received a notice of this May 13 hearing or its decision until yesterday.
According to Judge Cassidy, the Department of Homeland Security appealed his second termination order and the Bureau of Immigration Appeals remanded the case back to Cassidy for a written decision. Rambana was flummoxed: he never received a notice of either the May 13 termination order proceedings or an appeal. The first he heard of this was the decision he received late yesterday afternoon, June 11, when Judge Cassidy, for apparently a third time, told ICE to stop its removal proceedings against a US citizen.
David remains incarcerated. Yesterday he was transferred to Wilcox Prison. The reason for the current incarceration and the transfer to a new facility also is not clear at this point; it appears to be based on a probation violation. Mr. Rambano is trying to meet with his client to ascertain these details.
The lesson here, once again, is that ICE is relentless in its persecution of US citizens of Mexican descent, and it is incompetent, a dangerous combination. It is still necessary to ascertain the basis for the dates and decisions Judge Cassidy is referencing, to ensure that these occurred in the order stated and were not written post hoc in response to attorney Neil Rambana's publicization of his client's predicament yesterday.
The image above is a plaque commemorating an 1818 battle between the Telfair County Militia and the Creek Indians in modern Wilcox. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Wilcox County was named after either Mark or John Wilcox, both of whom were officers who fought in the Indian Wars. Wilcox experienced some hard times, but, the Encyclopedia continues, "The population started to climb again in the 1990s, when the Georgia Department of Corrections built Wilcox State Prison." This is where David is presently being held. Previous posts based on information from his attorney indicated David was being held in Lumpkin, Georgia but the dates on this are not clear at this point and that may need to be revised.
Yesterday morning I posted something (see the post below this one) about a US citizen who was detained for 8 months in 2006. Immigration attorney Neil Rambana, in Tallahassee, Florida, who took the case pro bono, argued his client's US citizenship status successfully and the judge terminated the deportation proceedings. But last month Rambana's client was once again being held in a detention facility in Lumpkin, Georgia and once again facing removal proceedings. Since mid-May Rambana had been trying, unsuccessfully, to contact ICE attorneys and explain their error, or, as I see it, their crime of false imprisonment.
At 5 pm EST yesterday Rambana received a long overdue note from immigration judge William Cassidy in Atlanta that the client in question once again had his deportation order terminated. The circumstances surrounding this are somewhat confusing, as is the case with many transactions with the immigration bureaucracy. I am waiting until Rambana figures out exactly what happened before posting more details, hopefully later today.
One fact that is clear is that ICE twice detained the same US citizen, who is Latino, for more than 8 months, even though ICE has no jurisdiction over US citizens.
The image above is of William Lumpkin, former Senator and Governor of Georgia, and namesake for the town hosting the ICE detention center that held Rambana's client.
Lumpkin made his name by clearing Cherokees out of Georgia. He wrote a book called, Removal of the Cherokee Indians from Georgia, 1827- 1841.
Mary Young, the historian who is my source for this information, writes that Lumpkin's "sudden addiction to Indian removal" was a response to "his flagging political career."
See Mary Young, "The Exercise of Sovereignty in Cherokee Georgia," Journal of the Early Republic, 10 (1990), note 7, citing Carl J. Vipperman, "The 'Particular Mission' of Wilson Lumpkin," Georgia Historical Quarterly, 66 (Fall 1982), 295-316.
NOTE: This was accidentally reposted this a.m.and therefore has the wrong time stamp. It was initially posted on June 11; nothing in the content was changed.
This morning I received an email message from Neil Rambana, an immigration attorney in Tallahassee, Florida representing a US citizen ICE is imprisoning in Lumpkin, Georgia. Rambana's client was arrested TWICE:
"In the first case before the Immigration Court I was able to prove citizenship and the judge terminated the process immediately. A few months later they arrested him again and charged him with the same thing. I am working now to prove citizenship once again although it is the same judge and same evidence. Moreover, there is an order in his file evidencing such. It is outrageous."
ICE held his client for eight months in 2006, then his client was detained again in May, 2008:
"To our surprise on or about May 12, 2008 I received a notice of hearing for May 19, 2008. I immediately filed for termination based upon the prior order terminating the matter.. To date, I have been going back and forth to try and speak with the Assistant Chief Counsel for the Department of Homeland Security to see if they will take judicial notice of the prior order of termination, but they have not returned our calls. The Immigration Court has not ruled on my motion to terminate as of today. It is now June and I believe he has been in detention since May, but I am not sure. Efforts to speak with him have been very difficult."This is not "detention." ICE has a record the client is a US citizen and has no jurisdiction over US citizens. This is false imprisonment and, because it appears that state lines were crossed, also kidnapping.
6/16 update and timeline. The information here was based on Mr. Rambana's information at the time from the immigration judge; since then we have learned that this information was incorrect and the situation is much worse, suggesting an illegal conspiracy to falsely imprison his client, David, among ICE, the Georgia Correctional authorities, and an immigration judge: See here for judge's 6/11 order a cover-up; for the most recent information, go to the tag "David."
The image is from the Correctional Corporation of America website announcing its opening of the Lumpkin, Georgia facility: "Construction on SDC began in 1999. It was halted in 2000, resumed in 2005 and was completed in September 2006 in response to demand for prison and detainee beds. The opening of the facility is indicative of CCA’s strength and growth in its industry."
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
René Saldivar was born in Mexico in 1967. But his father, Isidoro, was born in Three Point, Colorado, in 1919 and married René's mother before René's birth, and Isidoro met the other requirements for making René a natural born citizen.
Isidoro himself first went to Mexico with his family when he was 11 in 1930. That's when about a million US residents of Mexican descent, around 400,000 of whom were either citizens or legal residents, were illegally removed from the country by immigration raids bearing a shocking resemblance to the ones occurring now.
According to historians Francisco Balderrama and Raymond Rodrigíz, in their book Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s (1995): "[D]eportation procedures were made to order for wholesale violations of basic human rights. Mass raids and arrests were conducted without benefit of warrants. Individuals were often held incommunicado and not allowed to see anyone. Without the opportunity to post bail, deportees languised in jail until the next deportation train" (p. 52).
Like today's oversight hearings by the U.S. Congress condemning these abuses, in 1932 the Wickersham Commission exposed and denounced these abuses: "The apprehension and examination of supposed aliens are often characterized by methods which are unconstitutional, tyrannic and oppressive" (quoted on pp. 52-53). And like today, the agencies responsible for these abuses simply ignored the charges and continued their violations until the economic climate shifted and Mexicans were once again encouraged to return.
In 1940, at the age of 21, Isidoro Saldivar returned to the United States and started working in Stanislaus County, in Riverbank, where many of his children and their families still live. Some are machine operators at the Conagra plant. René had some problems coping with his father's and mother's deaths in the late 1990s and lives with his sister doing odd jobs and battling his demons, mostly staying free of any entanglements with the law. He served his first and only time in jail last summer, a couple months for a minor drug possession violation.
René's brother-in-law, Pastor Aquiles Rojas was planning to pick him up on his release date of October 12, but René wasn't there. According to ICE spokesman Brandon Alvarez-Montgomery, who revealed this in an email to me, Saldivar had actually been put into ICE custody in September. By the time Rojas went to the Modesto Honor Farm jail, Rene´ was in an isolation cell in Eloy, Arizona. He was so traumatized that he'd become catatonic and was given psychotropic drugs.
When I asked Alvarez-Montgomery why the jail wouldn't tell Rojas of Saldivar's location, he said that seemed strange. Alvarez-Montgomery told me that ICE agents are working with the Modesto sheriff's department and they would certainly have access to the database with information about Saldivar's detention.
The same disappearing is happening by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, which also did not tell Guzman's family of his whereabouts. They also had ICE-trained agents in their facility, and this had been the means of Guzman's deportation.
As the immigration judge told me, the US is quietly running a secret prison system, holding people without charges and keeping them in isolation from the people who might help gain their legal rights and liberty.
While Rene´ was in Eloy, his family in Riverbank was being harassed by the Modesto Sheriff's department. Twice they raided his sister's house looking to arrest René for missing his probation meetings, even though a probation officer in Modesto told me that when someone is put into ICE custody, this is entered in the inmate's release record. She also told me that this was not taken into account before issuing warrants, and that it was the inmate's responsibility to contact their probation officers, "even if they are deported" and explain the reasons for their absence.
This why Peter Guzman, another deported US citizen, was taken into custody at the border with a warrant for his arrest for missing a probation hearing. The government is abducting the weakest members of our society, and either hiding them from their families, or dropping them off in another country with $3, and then saying that the people who cannot reach their parents, wives, sisters, and children are supposed to be sending letters detailing their legal plight to a probation officer in another state or country.
Here is some more information about how hard it was to find René, as described by his brother-in-law, Aquiles Rojas, who is a US citizen, leads a congregation with about 250 parishoners in Riverbank, and is truly aghast at what occurred.
Unlike many people taken by ICE, René had someone who was a bit resourceful and was persistent in trying to locate him. Rojas said he called numerous immigration offices repeatedly, always leaving messages, never receiving any return calls. When he would reach someone, they never had information: "I left a lot of messages becasue we wanted to find out. I called immigration in Arizona in October. They told me they had no record of Saldivar. I called back to San Francisco. Nobody had no answer. But somebody had to have some record!" Rojas told me, exasperated.
In March, René called. Rojas and his wife drove 12 hours to Eloy to see René. The guards told him visitors were allowed only on weekends and holidays. But it was Good Friday, Rojas , the pastor, pointed out. That didn't count. Also, René had not submitted their names on the appropriate list authorizing visitors, so it would be too late for them to see him that weekend. "'I drove 12 hours from Central California,'" he tried to tell them, but "we weren't able to give him the papers. They don't receive papers. This is worse than the White House. I can talk to someone there. There, you can't talk to no one."
Rojas explained that his wife, René's sister, became a naturalized citizen 12 years earlier, but the other siblings had green cards. The parents "didn't know that the kids were US citizens. They applied for green cards, but i don't know why. It was a mistake. From the beginning they were US citizens."
After learning they couldn't leave the papers with the guards at Eloy Rojas drove about 100 miles to Tucson and mailed René his documents from there. "We also sent money and a pair of tennis shoes. They don't provide tennis shoes. But now I'm finding out they won't receive nothing."
I asked Rojas why he thought this was happening: "I've seen the rise of hatred towards our ethnic group. We see it happens with the Germans to the Jews, with other people, when the economy goes bad you got to blame somebody. There's the feeling that this ethnic group is causing a lot of problems."
"Thin Ice," an article I wrote for The Nation about US citizens being detained and deported by ICE, just scratches the surface of the information I gathered in the last few months. Lives really have been shattered. I met Robert, a US citizen deported twice, in his home in Los Angeles last week. He has a wife, who is a nurse, and a son, also named Robert. Robert Jr. was born in 1999. But his father wasn't around for most of his life. Dad was being held either in detention or in prison for no crime other than having a Spanish last name.
That's how Robert says he and dozens of others are screened when the Los Angeles County Jail releases its inmates each day. There are two release areas, one for Whites and Anglos, another for everyone else. "They only stop the people with Latino last names," he told me. I asked if he thought this would happen if his last name were Johnson. He said, "No they would not. It's discriminating." Once he was in the room of racially profiled suspected aliens, the ICE custodial agent looked at Robert's green card, disregarded Robert's assertion that he was a US citizen, and sent Robert to the El Centro Detention Center. One wrong waiting room changed Robert's life. In Robert's living room we went through a chaotic box of papers, some duplicates, including records for people with similar names who were not him. He showed me the first deposition he gave to a judge on May 29, 2001 in El Centro. It states: "I was adopted by my father and mother of which my father is a native U.S. born citizen, namely [father's name] and mother who is now deceased." He gave this same information to two immigration judges who deported him, one who sentenced him to three years in prison for falsely impersonating a US citizen, and then finally the fourth judge who, with no additional documentation, released Robert on bond. Robert described the stress of detention, the anxiety about losing his wife, his son, how detention "takes me away from my family. That's what matters to me. It's taking a piece of my heart out. I feel in myself that it was just dehumanized." Robert also feels a tremendous amount of guilt because he knows that because of his absence, they suffered. When he came home "it was very poor. In the refridgerator, they had no food." All those years away take a toll. Things between them are improving but it's still a sore point. "I still hear my wife, bringing it to my face: 'Only if you weren't deported. Only if you had your papers. It's the only thing. We're always fighting because of the fact of so many years [that I was gone]." Even apart from missing his family, time in detention was hard: "I seen people in that process, in the immigration courts, they kill themselves. They kill themselves." Robert told me of the stress he felt, the building up of tension in his head so he thought it might explode, that he might explode, that he had no way to leave even though he never should never have been there, and he said that there were a lot of people in his same situation. At a number of points it seemed that Robert's memory was slipping, that he would go back and forth between the narrative of his first trial and that of his second. Part of the reason for this is that he was shuffled all over the place, to several detention centers and several judges. But these are also symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Robert's in construction, framing, and is happy to have work right now. But he's in almost constant pain because of an injury from when he was in El Centro. He threw his back out throwing heavy pails of water to clean the floors. He did this for $1 a day "because sometimes at night you're hungry and want a snack." It is surprising that a few hundred detainees in Guantanamo have caused such a fuss but there is little outcry about the approximately 22,000 people going to sleep tonight in detention facilities in the far corners of the US mainland, who are not accused of any crime at all -- or they would be in the penal system -- many doing hard labor in exchange for a little snack.
In Robert's living room we went through a chaotic box of papers, some duplicates, including records for people with similar names who were not him. He showed me the first deposition he gave to a judge on May 29, 2001 in El Centro. It states: "I was adopted by my father and mother of which my father is a native U.S. born citizen, namely [father's name] and mother who is now deceased." He gave this same information to two immigration judges who deported him, one who sentenced him to three years in prison for falsely impersonating a US citizen, and then finally the fourth judge who, with no additional documentation, released Robert on bond.
Robert described the stress of detention, the anxiety about losing his wife, his son, how detention "takes me away from my family. That's what matters to me. It's taking a piece of my heart out. I feel in myself that it was just dehumanized." Robert also feels a tremendous amount of guilt because he knows that because of his absence, they suffered. When he came home "it was very poor. In the refridgerator, they had no food." All those years away take a toll. Things between them are improving but it's still a sore point. "I still hear my wife, bringing it to my face: 'Only if you weren't deported. Only if you had your papers. It's the only thing. We're always fighting because of the fact of so many years [that I was gone]."
Even apart from missing his family, time in detention was hard: "I seen people in that process, in the immigration courts, they kill themselves. They kill themselves." Robert told me of the stress he felt, the building up of tension in his head so he thought it might explode, that he might explode, that he had no way to leave even though he never should never have been there, and he said that there were a lot of people in his same situation.
At a number of points it seemed that Robert's memory was slipping, that he would go back and forth between the narrative of his first trial and that of his second. Part of the reason for this is that he was shuffled all over the place, to several detention centers and several judges. But these are also symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
Robert's in construction, framing, and is happy to have work right now. But he's in almost constant pain because of an injury from when he was in El Centro. He threw his back out throwing heavy pails of water to clean the floors. He did this for $1 a day "because sometimes at night you're hungry and want a snack." It is surprising that a few hundred detainees in Guantanamo have caused such a fuss but there is little outcry about the approximately 22,000 people going to sleep tonight in detention facilities in the far corners of the US mainland, who are not accused of any crime at all -- or they would be in the penal system -- many doing hard labor in exchange for a little snack.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Today The Nation magazine published an article I wrote based on that research, called "On Thin Ice." You can read the article here. Future posts will share much more information that space did not permit for inclusion in the Nation article.
I'm kinda bummed that The Nation went with the image of Peter Guzman returning to the US in its online version because the Guzman case is relatively well-known and my reporting indicates that the problem goes far beyond Guzman's experiences.
If you have any other stories to add about ICE abuses, please let me know as I have decided to write a book about this.