Sunday, April 12, 2009

Terraism Bites

An atmosphere promoting anti-immigrant actions has meant hell on earth for many who are simply citizens who resemble those who our fears have been directed toward. Always a danger to rights, feelings aroused against European descendants turn into unreasoned and destructive action.

Incidents of arrests of legitimate citizens, who have in some instances been detained illegally, are on the rise.

In a drive to crack down on illegal immigrants, the United States has locked up or thrown out dozens, probably many more, of its own citizens over the past eight years. A monthslong AP investigation has documented 55 such cases, on the basis of interviews, lawsuits and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. These citizens are detained for anything from a day to five years. Immigration lawyers say there are actually hundreds of such cases.

It is illegal to deport U.S. citizens or detain them for immigration violations. Yet citizens still end up in detention because the system is overwhelmed, acknowledged Victor Cerda, who left Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2005 after overseeing the system. The number of detentions overall is expected to rise by about 17 percent this year to more than 400,000, putting a severe strain on the enforcement network and legal system.

The result is the detention of citizens with the fewest resources: the mentally ill, minorities, the poor, children and those with outstanding criminal warrants, ranging from unpaid traffic tickets to failure to show up for probation hearings. Most at risk are Hispanics, who made up the majority of the cases the AP found.

"The more the system becomes confused, the more U.S. citizens will be wrongfully detained and wrongfully removed," said Bruce Einhorn, a retired immigration judge who now teaches at Pepperdine Law School. "They are the symptom of a larger problem in the detention system. ... Nothing could be more regrettable than the removal of our fellow citizens."

Jim Hayes, ICE director of detention and removal, said he is aware of only 10 cases of U.S. citizens detained over the past five years. Even if combined with the cases found by the AP, "that's not an epidemic," Hayes said. He refused to identify any cases, citing privacy laws.

He added that agents investigate any claims to U.S. citizenship, but they often turn out to be false. He said U.S. citizens sometimes claim to be foreign-born, and that immigration officials never knowingly hold someone they can "definitively" determine is a citizen.
What is clear is that immigration detentions — including those of citizens — have soared in recent years. One reason is a heightened concern for security that arose out of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Another is a political climate that encouraged a tough stance on illegal immigration, especially after Congress failed to pass immigration reform legislation almost three years ago.

We have been through a maladministration that consciously turned citizens against each other. The consequence is a lowered security for all of us.

Confidence in our executive branch has been seriously damaged, by the actions against citizens who are not guilty of the crimes committed. Hardly surprising that the actual criminals are those who are victimizing those they point out as the threat - that threat that they in actuality are.


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