Thursday, April 09, 2009

Papers, Please

I guess it's time we all started carrying certified copies of our birth certificates, or, if we weren't born here, copies of our naturalization papers. As this story in today's Los Angeles Times points out, those employer sweeps ICE has been carrying out have netted both citizens and legal residents, holding them anywhere from a few hours to seven months, and even deporting at least one citizen.

In a rather interesting display of linguistic cunning, ICE disagrees that any such thing has happened:

"ICE does not detain United States citizens," said spokesman Richard Rocha, adding that agents thoroughly investigated people's claims of citizenship. "ICE only processes an individual for removal when all available facts indicate that the person is an alien." [Emphasis added]

Aside from the use of the antiquated and odious use of the term "alien," the statement contains a nice little waffle: "all available facts."

The fact of the matter is that for several years now, ICE agents have swept into employers and rounded up all the brown people in sight. Because no one routinely carries proof of citizenship on them at all times, citizens and legal residents have been forced to sit and wait until someone in government can finally be convinced that a mistake has been made. And that wait can be extensive because of legislation which deprives those being held with even a modicum of due process:

Unlike suspects in criminal matters, however, immigration detainees have no right to government-appointed counsel -- and, in some cases, have no access to paid lawyers. Fast-track deportation procedures enacted by Congress in recent years also limit court review once the expulsion process is underway.

President Obama has promised a shift in enforcement emphasis from the workers to the employers, which might result in fewer "mistakes," but which still does not address the real problem. We still don't have a sane immigration law, one which not only provides a rational basis for admitting workers but which also provides for legal status for those who have been here for years and have contributed to this country's tax coffers and its society.

President Obama and the 111th Congress might want to get back to that knotty problem and this time solve it without the xenophobic fireworks we saw in the last two Congresses.

It's time.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

"ICE only processes an individual for removal when all available facts indicate that the person is an alien."

Better not erupt out of anybody's chest when the ICE agents are around, then.

7:00 AM  

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