Friday, May 22, 2009

A New Tool In The Tool Kit

Here's my nomination for the ugliest story of the day. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have found a new way to deport immigrants, one that abuses the court system to ICE advantage:

Fernando Arteaga appeared last week in Immigration Court as part of a lengthy battle to stay in the United States. But just before the hearing began, immigration officers removed him from the courtroom, arrested him and took him into custody.

Several hours later, agents deported him to Mexico -- even though his court case was still underway. ...

Arteaga, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, was deported in 1988 based on an assault conviction and sneaked back across the border soon after. In 2003, he was arrested by immigration officials but was released from detention after paying a bond. The immigration agency gave him a notice to appear in court. For the last six years, he had been fighting to stay in the country based on his marriage to a U.S. citizen. The couple have three U.S.-born children.

Arteaga's attorney, Mario Acosta Jr., said that moments after his client was arrested May 11, he went into the courtroom and explained what had happened. The judge issued a stay of deportation, Acosta said, but the immigration agency ignored the order and deported Arteaga anyway.

The chain of events is interesting. When Mr. Arteaga was arrested for illegally re-entering the US after being deported, he was allowed to post a bond, then ordered to appear in court in a case which ICE officials initiated. After years of fighting to stay in the US, Mr. Arteaga showed up for a court hearing, was arrested, and then deported even after the judge hearing the case issued a stay of deportation.

There are a couple of rather clear lessons here. The first is that if you are an illegal immigrant you only get due process once in a life time. After that, you are fair game for the government. It gets to do as it chooses, including manipulating the court system to set you up.

The second lesson flows from the first. The executive branch of the government, in this case ICE, trumps the judicial branch. The Unitary Executive theory of the last administration made that clear, and apparently this administration is going to operate under that theory if this episode is any indication.

Some change, eh?

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