Tuesday, March 9, 2010

ICE Puts Son of U.S. Navy Officer Incommunicado from Press, Attorney Outraged

This is where the Pinal County Jail officers informed me yesterday that ICE was violating the First Amendment (Florence, Arizona)

ICE Illegally Prohibiting Nation Reporter and Scholar's Access to Joseph Anderson, Detention Centers, Immigration Courts.

Joseph Anderson has provided copious evidence that he's a U.S. citizen, but ICE is ignoring his evidence and holding him in the Pinal County Jail. (You can read about his case here.)

Not only is ICE is holding Mr. Anderson illegally, it is now prohibiting Mr. Anderson from meeting with the press, further violating ICE rules as well as Mr. Anderson's and the U.S. public's First Amendment rights to freedom of association and freedom of the press.

Kari Hong, Mr. Anderson's attorney, is upset:
I am not aware of any policy or law that authorizes ICE to limit or deny Joseph's access to the media. This disregard for legal authority is even more troubling given that our legal argument to the federal courts is that Joseph is a U.S. citizen. The mere detention of him, in our view, is unauthorized. I understand that ICE disagrees with our position, but as the Ninth Circuit is resolving this legal question, under their own policy, ICE is supposed to be giving Joseph the benefit of the doubt and releasing him rather than taking away rights and privileges detained non-citizens enjoy.
The Details
On the afternoon of Friday, March 5, Officer Charlson of the Florence Service Processing Center (SPC) informed me while we were in the detention center that he would make sure to have Mr. Anderson brought to the Florence SPC for its normal visiting hours on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. This commitment was required by ICE detention standards, which allow detainees to meet anyone during visiting hours subject to both parties' mutual agreement. (The televideo system at the jail had been inoperative since February 26, and ICE was bringing people from the jail down the road to the ICE facility for weekend visits.)

Shortly after that arrangement was made, I received a cryptic email message from the Chief of ICE's Ministry of Propaganda, Brian Hale. I had not been in touch with Mr. Hale about the Saturday visit. He informed me that Mr. Anderson would not be allowed to meet with me over the weekend. No reason was provided for this illegal intervention. (Officer Charlson was aware that I was waiting for a long overdue response to a request to videotape an interview with Mr. Anderson; in the meantime Officer Charlson, following ICE rules, was trying to allow Mr. Anderson the ability to meet with me as a regular visitor.)

I replied to Mr. Hale by stating that his intervention was illegal and I intended to meet Mr. Anderson on Saturday. I am calling him a Minister of Propaganda and not using his official title of "Director of the Office of Public Affairs" because Mr. Hale is curtailing the public's access to information, using Soviet-era methods of obstructions, distortions, and outright lies to keep ICE's affairs secret.

On Saturday at 8 a.m. Officer Charlson met me at the gate of the Florence SPC and informed me that he had "made a mistake" and that Mr. Anderson would not be brought down to meet with me. I asked him for a legal reason for this. He did not provide one, although he did assure me that the televideo system would be working on Monday and Mr. Anderson could meet with me then.

Yesterday I showed up during the visiting hours of the Pinal County Jail and the desk officer told me that televideo system was still not working; the part was being held up by Customs at the Canadian border. Mr. Anderson would not be able to talk to me.

I drove back to Florence SPC and told Officer Charlson that it seemed he had made another mistake. However, Officer Charlson had a nice surprise: he had followed up on his commitment and arranged with Commander Johnston at the jail for me to have a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Anderson that afternoon. I returned to the jail and informed the desk officer of this. She spoke with Commander Johnston and informed me that I would be escorted to meet Mr. Anderson. However, there had been a fight in the women's wing and I would have to wait a few minutes for an escort.

While I was waiting, the ICE Ministry of Propaganda unlawfully interceded yet again. Commander Johnston came out to inform me that he had just been called by Officer Charlson and told that Mr. Anderson once again would have his right to meet with me obstructed. Cmdr. Johnston said his facility was under contract to ICE and although he had been trying to accommodate a meeting, he "was helpless" in the face of an illegal order from ICE.

About 30 minutes later, Officer Charlson informed me that he had made another "mistake."

More Lies and Secrets at the ICE Ministry of Propaganda
In addition to illegally interfering with Mr. Anderson's rights, ICE has been obstructing my own investigation of its facilities at Eloy and Florence, including this morning, when I was illegally turned away from the immigration courts at Eloy. (See below.)

This continues longstanding attempts by ICE to improve its image by deception and impeding access, rather than by following the law. Before turning to my recent experiences, consider the following:

#In 2009, ICE propagandist Richard Rocha told reporters from the Los Angeles Times, "ICE does not detain U.S. citizens." But of course, as reporters across the country have been documenting, including Andrew Becker and Patrick McDonnell of the LA Times, ICE has been detaining thousands of U.S. citizens. (Recently, in circumstances very similar to those in Mr. Anderson's case, a judge ordered the release of a U.S. citizen from ICE custody in Minnesota: you can listen to coverage of that here. (I personally documented 82 U.S. citizens who had been held in ICE custody in the Florence and Eloy area and then ordered released by immigration judges.) You can read about that and find links to earlier articles here.

#In her article, "Officials Hid Truth of Immigrant Deaths in Jail," New York Times reporter Nina Bernstein describes how Mr. Hale's underling Michael Gilhooley lied to Ms. Bernstein. Mr. Gilhooley, the same person who had denied, without any reason, my request for a tour of the Varick Detention Center, told Ms. Bernstein that he was unable to find out the condition of a dying man. Instead of communicating the truth to a reporter, Mr. Gilhooley used Ms. Bernstein's inquiry to initiate a cover-up of Boubacar Bah's illness and eventual death.

#In response to my article in The Nation magazine documenting ICE agents unconstitutionally impersonating Mormons and attorneys, ICE issued talking points to its staff that covered-up ICE's previous statements to me.

Local reporters did some great work following up on the the secret subfield offices in their vicinities. As a result I was contacted by Utah Tribune reporter Kristin Molton. She told me that ICE propagandist Virginia Kice had categorically denied the report. I sent her the emailed responses to my queries ICE had sent to me earlier. Here they are, verbatim:

[JS]3) Is it consistent with government policy for ICE agents to pose as religious workers in order to gain access to homes for the purposes of issuing arrest warrants to immigrants who have no criminal history?

[ICE:]DRO officers are authorized and trained to conduct ruse operations. The use of ruses in law enforcement operations is an effective law enforcement tool that enhances officer safety. One main objective of a ruse is to prevent violators from fleeing, thereby allowing for a safe arrest that does not place the violator, the arresting officers or innocent bystanders at risk.

[JS:]5) Is it consistent with government policy for ICE agents to represent themselves as an immigrant's attorney for purposes of arranging to meet in the attorney's office and then arresting the immigrant in the lobby?

[ICE:] As stated in response to question 3 above, DRO officers are authorized and
trained to conduct ruse operations, however, DRO officers do not routinely conduct ruse operations in attorney's offices.
I gave ICE an opportunity to deny that it impersonated religious workers and attorneys, and ICE instead explained how these operations were part of their mission. In response to this reporter telling me that ICE's Ms. Kice denied the Mormon operation, she quoted my response: "How do we know it's not part of their ruse operation to lie about ruse operations? They told me it's [impersonating religious workers] consistent with their policy. Why would I doubt it?"

ICE agents lie as part of their daily operations, and ICE has a team of expert propagandists trying to cover this up. This is offensive to the rule of law and any possibility of responsible self-governance. How can citizens and Congress regulate ICE when ICE lies about its actions and obstructs those in its custody from meeting with reporters?

The Nation recently published an editorial in which I gave voice to the frustration among attorneys and people in ICE custody that, shockingly, ICE refused to issue regulations for its detention operations. The violations above are a result of this.

Alas, space did not permit sharing some insightful quotations on this subject. When federal agents worked under a similar cloak of lawlessness in the 1920s, federal judges and senior attorneys protested. Of the "Red raids," in which agents used the pretext of immigration violations to disrupt communist organizing, one judge squashing a deportation order wrote:
Assuming petitioner is of the so-called 'Reds' and of the evil practice [sic] charged against him, he and his kind are less a danger to America than are those who [e]ndorse or use the methods that brought him to deportation. (Judge Bourquin, 263 Fed. 110, 113)

Another judge said of J. Edgar Hoover’s raids:
"a mob is a mob, whether made up of Government officials acting under instructions from the Department of Justice, or of criminals, loafers and the vicious classes. (Judge Anderson 265 Fed. 17, 43)

In a third case, the federal court held:
The 'mild mannered' methods employed do not change the truth that the arrest and detention were wholly without authority of law....The relator is charged with a failure to observe the immigration laws; she is sought to be condemned by another violation.

The principle that protecting U.S. citizens from government thuggery should be prioritized over protecting against the immigration of criminal aliens is of course the raison d’etre of the Bill of Rights and thus a longstanding central tenet of this country’s system of governance.

This morning at the Eloy Detention Center, Assistant Warden Karl Stansel and Chief of Unit Management Wilson informed me that ICE Assistant Field Office Director Michelle Lee and Correction Corporation of America's Mr. Swenson, the managing director for CCA in Arizona, had instructed him not to allow me into attend immigration court hearings that day. Warden Stansel said he was told the order was issued because of an investigation being conducted after ICE agent Vincent Picard informed them of how I was mistreated during my visit last week, when I was illegally pulled out of an immigration hearing by a CCA guard.

I started to laugh, "You realize how absurd this is: you are preventing me from having access to the courts because of an investigation into my being prevented from having access to the courts? This is only going to cause another investigation." (According to a DOJ regulation, immigration courts are supposed to be open to the public.)

I asked them for a legal reason for my being denied access to the courts that morning. None was offered. Instead, Asst. Warden Stansel said, "This investigation is for your safety." I said I thought it was great that they were doing an investigation but I didn't understand why this would prevent my access that day. What if I waived my safety concerns? He repeated that he had been ordered by his warden who had been ordered by someone else not to allow me in.

To their credit, Ms. Wilson and Asst. Warden Swenson seemed genuinely pained by having to convey this information, and they did not disagree when I pointed out the irony of them deporting people for a simple infraction of legal status while they were perpetrating a serious violation of the U.S. Constitution, one of many that are occurring here and in ICE operations across the country.

[UPDATE, 3/10/10] I learned today for the first time a bit more about the alleged allegation for conduct from Ernestine Fobbs, ICE public affairs officer, and John Mills, a CCA investigator. It is truly incredible and deeply disturbing. I believe the message I drafted to Ms. Fobbs conveys what is happening. ICE is refusing to let me read any of the documents associated with alleged allegations concerning events at the Eloy Detention Center.

Dear Ernestine,

I just spoke by phone with John Mills, the CCA investigator into my alleged allegations.

You told me that the investigation was still ongoing. He told me that he concluded the investigation yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, the investigation was into nonsense and not into the substantive concerns about my access to the courts being obstructed.

In response to Mr. Picard asking me how I was doing following my visit to Eloy on Thursday for the master calendar hearings I said, "I'm fine but a bit bruised from running the g[au]ntlet." Apparently Mr. Picard conveyed this sentence verbatim, but the investigator understood the meaning. "You're a literary type, so I took that to be a metaphor."

Nonetheless, CCA launched an investigation into whether rows of men with clubs had been attacking me on Thursday.

Mr. Mills told me that he had not observed this. He did observe my being told to leave a court room but he said he did not report on this or any of my other concerns about my access being obstructed by verbal instructions or people keeping me in and out of locked areas. Instead of investigating specific charges about CCA obstructing access to the courts, CCA investigated a metaphor.


Jacqueline Stevens

UPDATE 3/15/10: Maria Hinosa read this post and interviewed me about Joseph Anderson for the NPR show "Latino USA." It aired this weekend. You can listen to it here.

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