Friday, September 11, 2009

Trapped In The Maze

The Roman Catholic Church may have theologically dispensed with limbo, but the US government certainly has not, if this NY Times article is any evidence.

...For a year and a half Ms. Jiang, a waitress with no criminal record and a history of attempted suicide, was locked away in an immigration jail in Florida. Often in solitary confinement, she sank ever deeper into mental illness, relatives say, not eating for days, or vomiting after meals for fear of being poisoned.

With no lawyer to plead for asylum on her behalf, she had been ordered to be deported to her native China, from which her family says she fled in 1995 after being forcibly sterilized at age 20. Too ill to obtain the travel documents needed for the deportation to take place, she was trapped in an immigration limbo: a fate that detainee advocates say is common in a system that has no rules for determining mental competency and no obligation to provide anyone with legal representation.
[Emphasis added]

That Xiu Ping Jiang had mental problems even before being locked up seems pretty clear from the article: her behavior at hearings before the immigration authorities was bizarre. However, because the judges involved had no training in spotting mental health issues (and apparently no human sensitivity at all), she was simply ordered deported. Because she was incapable of obtaining the necessary documents for travel, she was left to rot in custody.

Now, from a purely pragmatic perspective, it would have been cheaper for the government to provide her with a lawyer and a competency hearing. While "on ICE", she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and was provided with medical treatment. Her stay on our tab cost far more than a lawyer would have. But more than dollars and good sense is involved here.

What kind of justice is it to simply ram a person through a system without any legal representation? A lawyer would have immediately spotted Ms. Jiang's mental incompetence and would also have noted that she fled a regime that sterilized her, perhaps giving rise to a plea for asylum. Are certain basic legal rights only for citizens, rather than for all people our government asserts power over?

Ms. Jiang is out of jail and her case has been re-opened by the judge, but only because her story leaked out and was fortuitously picked up by the New York Times. Somebody got embarrassed. One has to wonder how many other people like Ms. Jiang are still rotting away in detention because their stories didn't get out.

Beacon on the hill?

Not hardly.

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Blogger shrimplate said...

I blame Ronald Wilson Reagan.

No, seriously. Even Nixon wouldn't have tolerated that kind of bullshit.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

shrimplate, that may have been who started things, but right now I blame Barack Hussein Obama for not stopping it.

A simple directive to the Justice Department requiring access to counsel for those hauled into immigration court fairly or unfairly would go a long ways to putting an end to this kind of horror story.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous polyorchnid octopunch said...

Yeah, gleaming city on a hill... if that city's Minas Morgul.

8:48 AM  

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