Saturday, June 23, 2012

More on the Sunday Review Essay

 Ten Commandments Posted in Griffin Courthouse, Spaulding County, Georgia
shadows from right to left--Mark Lyttle, his wife, and me

An opinion piece is a great way to stir up a conversation and a lousy way to present arguments in scholarly detail or provide sources.  Here are a few other thoughts related to "Political Scientists are Lousy Forecasters," published in hard copy of the New York Times Sunday Review on June 24, 2012.  (I am not under the impression that a whole lot of people are interested, but for folks with questions, it seemed more efficient to do this here than on email.)

Auto- Q and A

Q.  Why did you write this?
A.  Because  a couple weeks ago I returned from a day in Judge Fletcher Sam's court in Griffin, Georgia and listened to an impassioned speech just outside his court room by Sernita Trice, a one-time political science major at Penn State, that began, "There is no justice here.  No one cares about us."   The details are not relevant here, but she was right and I was embarrassed for my discipline for ignoring a myriad of politically and intellectually gripping questions that are in cities like Griffin and counties like Spaulding and states like Georgia throughout our country.

I returned to my room at the Griffin Inn and that's when I saw e-mails from my chair and APSA urging me to defend political science against being cut from the National Science Foundation budget.  Of course, I've had my frustrations about political science research agendas long, long before this but it was the specific conjuncture of frustration and the timing of the appeals for NSF support that moved me to write this.

Q.  Geez!  I thought we'd gone beyond that old Wolin v. the behavioralist debate.  Why are you stirring up that old can of worms?
A.  I'm not.  I disagree quite strongly with both the claim of quantitative political scientists to be emulating the method of Karl Popper and also Sheldon Wolin's attack on them for doing so.  As I point out in the piece, Popper rejected behavioralism; he also rejects probabilistic research's claim to being scientific knowledge.  I've published chunks of this in the Methods Appendix to States Without Nations: Citizenship for Mortals (Columbia University Press, 2009).

Also, I've criticized political theorists for making non-falsifiable claims about the alleged decline of the nation-state, including Wendy Brown's Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (Verso, 2010).

Q.  Does this mean that there's a rift between the theorists and everyone else in your department?
A.  NO!  My colleagues are intellectually curious, well-read, and great interlocutors, as well as supportive of my less traditional research agendas.  It's true that I've been trying to encourage more reflection on the implications of Tetlock's research as well as more general questions about our scholarly objectives and I see this piece as part of our ongoing conversation.    

Q.  You really go after James Fearon and David Laitin.  What's that about?
A.  The quantitative civil wars studies industry reveals various troubling and even horrifying commitments, especially to reductionism, inductivism, and the axiomatic status of the nation and ethnic groups. These studies radically impair our society's ability to grapple with pressing problems generated by kinship groups in this country and elsewhere.

Unfortunately there wasn't room to go into the many problems with Fearon's and Laitin's work.  Here's a link to a work in progress:"A Popperian Reading of Civil War Studies," is what I think I'll call it.  It received comments from a peer reviewed journal with a recommendation that I revise and resubmit but this all happened during the time-frame when I was moving and starting new projects so I haven't yet followed up. 

Q.  Also, that whole Tetlock metaphor with the chimps throwing darts: isn't that a bit unfair?  It's such a provocative image. 
A.  Yes, it is a provocative image.  Thanks, Professor Tetlock, for providing this!  All representations of ideas from math and indeed all observations use metaphors. Words, ideas, and symbols that are vivid, accessible, and clarifying are better than others.  

Q.  What are the sources you're using for the claims in "Political Scientists Are Lousy Forecasters"?
A.  Here you go: a list based on the materials I put together for the intrepid New York Times fact-checker. 

Q.  Any reading recommendations?
A.  Yes.  There are lots of greats methods work.  Alas, I don't have the time for putting together a full list but I do want to plug this one:  Kristin Monroe put together an amazing collection of essays that should be required reading for every political scientist, and is available on Amazon for $12!:  Contemporary Empirical Political Theory (University of California Press, 1997).

Q.  Did you have to make any cuts?
A.  Alas, several.  The ones I feel the worst about are the places describing examples of terrific work my colleagues are doing. Here they are:
Intriguingly, another article cautions against taking at face value what people tell survey researchers, and not just on hot button issues such as racial attitudes.  In an ingenious study, funded by the NSF Digital Government Research Program, not part of the Political Science division, political scientist Michael Neblo and his colleagues found that people in their sample who were angry about politics were substantially more likely to express a disinterest in meeting their members of Congress when asked about this  as a survey question than when researchers arranged actual online meetings with their representatives.
.... Government can and should assist political scientists, especially those who use history and theory to yield insights beyond the daily headlines. [THE LAY READER DOESN’T NEED THIS such as Jeffrey Winters’ analysis of oligarchy in the United States, Charli Carpenter’s reflections on the "everyday politics," shaping political science research, Dorian Warren’s work on the intersection of race and labor politics, and other articles appearing in the APSA’s Perspectives on Politics, a journal offering readable, relevant expert analyses that orients us to shifting political contexts and challenges our intuitions.CUT]
Q.  I was reading other stuff on your blog.  Why do you have all these posts on U.S. citizens being detained and deported?
A.  This is a little experiment in be-the-change, politically and intellectually.  I'm drawing on these very specific people and their stories to engage theories of citizenship and membership and also to throw a few monkey wrenches into the system producing these outcomes.  (Hmmm, wonder how political scientists compare with monkeys throwing their wrenches.)  I focus on the plight of U.S. citizens being unlawfully detained and deported because they're the 900 pound gorilla in the mine: if even the rights of U.S. citizens are not being protected then that tells us a lot about the treatment of everyone else.

Also, anything the government does to protect due process rights for U.S. citizens will improve the rights of everyone else -- because the only way to establish citizenship is to provide people with assigned attorneys.  (People may not realize they are U.S. citizens or be in a position to file the right motions to stop the deportation machine, especially if they are 19 year-old guys just being released from jail for stealing a car and they are whisked straight from the jail lobby to an ICE detention center without anyone telling their families.)  If you're interested in more about this, please see "U.S. Government Unlawfully Detaining and Deporting U.S. Citizens as Aliens," Virginia Journal of Social Policy and Law, 18:3 (2011), 115 p.

In addition, I'm supervising a Deportation Research Clinic.  The major project is to conduct a survey of misconduct in deportation proceedings.   If any of this is of interest and you want to collaborate, please be in touch.

Q.  Anything else you are working on?
A.  My major work-in-progress is a long-term project, "200 Per Cent American."  This is the response Mark Lyttle gave to a deportation officer who asked if he was a U.S. citizen after he was detained in the Atlanta airport on his return from Guatemala City.  Mark, who is cognitively disabled and bipolar, had been deported to Mexico and then from there deported to Honduras.  It took him more than four months before a consular officer figured out his story and issued him a U.S. passport--and it was this passport that the government said was fraudulently obtained when he returned and had the interview.   (Mark's attorney was unable to obtain his release from ICE custody and emailed me.  I was at a spring workshop in Dartmouth and called an ICE agent in Washington D.C. with whom I was working on another story, and she called the Atlanta ICE office and procured Mark's release.)

The book I'm writing is a story about his experiences told through the historical and narrative lens of Miguel Cervantes, Don Quixote, a novel making fun of the Spanish conquistadors for acting on the basis of the crazy myths that led them to the Americas. 

Q.  Where are you?
A.  I'm dividing my time between Chicago and New York City this summer.

UPDATE (June 26, 2012)
Q.  What has been the response to your piece?
A.   A deluge of grateful emails, including from political science NSF panel advisers -- the plurality of which literally say, "the emperor has no clothes"; and ferocious, incoherent, illogical, and often ad hominem blogosphere attacks from the naked emperor's fashion consultants desperately trying to convince the elite guard that the finery really is there.

(Clearly an email that says "the emperor has no clothes" won't work; these statements only work when the spectators/chorus do this together and thus embarrass the emperor's henchmen into abandoning their latest round of propaganda and group-think activities.)

I will let the dust settle a bit and then respond sometime next week in a separate post. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

ICE Kidnaps Another US Citizen In Springfield, Illinois

"There's no jurisdiction for the government to arrest or detain, or let alone deport, citizens. That's otherwise known as kidnapping" -- Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), quoted in Mother Jones.

On May 4, 2012 a couple deportation officers drove in an unmarked car to the home of Springfield, Illinois college student Jhon Erik Ocampo, 26, handcuffed him, and took him to an unmarked building where he was held in a cold cell until early the next morning before being driven across his state the next six days in hand cuffs and shackles.   

Unmarked ICE Office at 2861 Stanton Street, Springfield, Illinois, 
photo by Jhon Ocampo

Fugitive Operations and the Criminal Alien Program, both part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for years has been arresting and deporting people whom ICE's own data show are for the most part either not criminals or not aliens -- most of them have been arrested for broken tail lights or other minor infractions, or being in the car or house with someone the agents are seeking.   Jhon and his family experienced the horrors of this last month when ICE agents arrested him even though he and his mother explained to the agents that Jhon was a U.S. citizen.   The agents --the name on the Notice to Appear is Michael Mitchell, Resident Agent in Charge, and Glen Harrington is the Special Agent who signed the Certificate of Service for an immigration court appearance -- ignored their explanations that Mr. Ocampo acquired U.S. citizenship automatically by operation of law in 2002 when his mother naturalized.

Instead, they handcuffed him, put him in the back of their car, and drove him to their Stanton Street hideout.  "You can't even tell it's a federal government building.  It's a little house, not too far from my house," Jhon told me.  He was held in the cold cell adjacent four agents, none of whom heeded his request to look up his citizenship records in their database, something that was not only possible but that the law requires.  "I told them everything, my mom's name and alien number.  I gave them all that.  They said I was being processed.  I told them I'm a citizen.  They should have right there investigated.  But they just took it down.  They didn't follow up on it," Jhon said.

 Jhon's right as a matter of justice and also the law.  It is impossible to repeat this too many times: ICE HAS NO JURISDICTION TO HOLD U.S. CITIZENS AS ALIENS.  (To read more on this law and how its persistent violation amounts to kidnapping, please go here.) (For the ICE Memorandum requiring agents to immediately investigate claims of U.S. citizenship and release anyone who has probative evidence of this lase go here.)

ICE is demonstrably ignoring the law and official policies: when you pick someone up and move them in handcuffs against their will and without legal authority,  it is a serious crime and Rep. Lofgren is right to call it kidnapping, a far more egregious violation of the law and the community's trust than any of the violations for which Jhon allegedly was convicted (the ICE report indicates convictions for auto theft, aggravated assault, and possession of stolen property but this also may contain errors).   (Regardless, our country is not in the habit of banishing citizens for small crimes, or even large ones.)


2007 Google map image of the block for where ICE locked up Jhon Ocampo

Copy firm across the street from unmarked ICE office

On May 5, ICE agents drove Jhon to the Sangamon County jail and held him there for four days.  "I tried to tell them that I was in a car accident but they refused to give me my medication.  I slept on the floor."  He said there were five other men in the cell, and three of them had to sleep on mattresses on the ground; the toilet was behind a wall in the same room.  At no point was he allowed to shower or even given a toothbrush and toothpaste.  "There were blood stains on the walls.  It was very unhealthy."  

A few days later, instead of releasing him, ICE agents picked him up and drove him to another jail, the Tri-County Detention Center in Ullin, Illinois.  "During all the times I was transported I was in handcuffs and shackles.  My last transport before I got released we left Tri-County at 1:20 a.m. on May 10 for Chicago and the woman who drove the van didn't ever stop for us to use the bathroom.  I about pissed my pants in that van.  She didn't let us out till we got to Chicago and that was a seven hour drive with traffic."  Jhon added, "Such unfair treatment.  These people have too much power."  

(A and 2 are the Stanton House and Springfield jail, C is Ullin.)

The scary part is that the drive to Chicago came AFTER the attorney had reached ICE and obtained their agreement to release Jhon.  The attorney told ICE the same thing his mother and Jhon and their own files had revealed all along: Jhon is a U.S. citizen.  Jhon had no idea what was going on: "They wouldn't let me see my mom or family," who had come to visit.  And he was concerned that it took a call from a lawyer and not the law itself to obtain his freedom.  "I'm blessed that I have a very supportive, loving family.  Otherwise I would have been screwed and probably illegally deported to Colombia."

Jhon was upset that no one in Chicago helped arranged for his travel home--his family had to buy him an Amtrak ticket -- or even bothered to apologize.

Before going into the details of his own kidnapping, Jhon expressed concern that his neighborhood had become the stalking grounds of unscrupulous deportation agents.  "They're shutting down Mexican restaurants like crazy.  There used to be seven and now we're down to two.  I'm surprised they're out here hunting people just because they're Hispanic.  You could be just walking on the street and they'll hunt you down.  I got arrested and they went out and were still hunting people out, bringing in two more people."  He also reported unmarked ICE cars taking down license plate numbers of churchgoers in his area who seemed Hispanic.

The fact that this is occurring in Illinois despite Governor Patrick Quinn's bold defiance of the Secure Community program is frightening and suggests once more the urgent need for the Department of Justice to arrest the criminals running the Illinois Criminal Alien Program. 

Yes, of course Jhon is filing a lawsuit and has obtained representation from Paul Grotas.  However, as I've said before, ICE has been responding to lawsuits by paying out our tax money, and not by disciplining the agents responsible for the law-breaking.  The DOJ was right to arrest the police in East Haven when they violated the civil rights of that community.  Now it needs to show some real courage and arrest federal agents who are doing the same thing nationwide.
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