(Story via Freedom Democrats 2008-01-25.)
The primary reason that you should oppose government immigration laws is that the system of international apartheid is based on morally despicable premises, and necessarily involves massive State violence against peaceful people. Immigration laws involve the State in discrimination against, and violation of the basic human rights of, peaceful immigrants. But that’s not all that they do. And if you understand the stupidity and the evil of immigration laws, but don’t yet feel that you personally have a reason to stick your own neck out to actively oppose them, maybe this will help change your mind.
FLORENCE, Ariz. — Thomas Warziniack was born in Minnesota and grew up in Georgia, but immigration authorities pronounced him an illegal immigrant from Russia.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has held Warziniack for weeks in an Arizona detention facility with the aim of deporting him to a country he’s never seen. His jailers shrugged off Warziniack’s claims that he was an American citizen, even though they could have retrieved his Minnesota birth certificate in minutes and even though a Colorado court had concluded that he was a U.S. citizen a year before it shipped him to Arizona.
In Warziniack’s case, ICE officials appear to have been oblivious to signs that they’d made a serious mistake.
After he was arrested in Colorado on a minor drug charge, Warziniack told probation officials there wild stories about being shot seven times, stabbed twice and bombed four times as a Russian army colonel in Afghanistan, according to court records. He also insisted that he swam ashore to America from a Soviet submarine.
Court officials were skeptical. Not only did his story seem preposterous, but the longtime heroin addict also had a Southern accent and didn’t speak Russian.
Colorado court officials quickly determined his true identity in a national crime database: He was a Minnesota-born man who grew up in Georgia. Before Warziniack was sentenced to prison on the drug charge, his probation officer surmised in a report that he could be mentally ill.
Although it took only minutes for McClatchy to confirm with Minnesota officials that a birth certificate under Warziniack’s name and birth date was on file, Colorado prison officials notified federal authorities that Warziniack was a foreign-born prisoner.
McClatchy also was able to track down Warziniack’s three half-sisters. Even though they hadn’t seen him in almost 20 years, his sisters were willing to vouch for him.
One of them, Missy Dolle, called the detention center repeatedly, until officials there stopped returning her calls. Her brother’s attorney told her that a detainee in Warziniack’s situation often has to wait weeks for results, even if he or she gets a copy of a U.S. birth certificate.
Warziniack, meanwhile, waited impatiently for an opportunity to prove his case. After he contacted the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, a group that provides legal advice to immigrants, a local attorney recently agreed to represent him for free.
Dolle and her husband, Keith, a retired sheriff’s deputy in Mecklenburg County, N.C., flew to Arizona from their Charlotte home to attend her brother’s hearing before an immigration judge.
Before she left, she e-mailed Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. After someone from his office contacted ICE, immigration officials promised to release Warziniack if they got a birth certificate.
After scrambling to get a power of attorney to obtain their brother’s birth certificate, the sisters succeeded in getting a copy the day before the hearing.
On Thursday, however, government lawyers told an immigration judge during a deportation hearing that they needed a week to verify the authenticity of Warziniack’s birth record. The judge delayed his ruling.
I still can’t believe this is happening in America, Dolle said.
Warziniack began to weep when he saw his sister.
They still don’t believe me, he said.
Later that day, however, ICE officials changed their minds and said that he could be released this week.
—Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Washington Bureau (2008-01-24): Immigration officials detaining, deporting American citizens
In the real world, outside of statist power trip la-la land, if you grabbed somebody off the street and locked him up in a hellhole jail cell against his will all through a complete mistake, and you kept him there and stole weeks of his life away from him, all the while failing to notice your fuck-up because of your arrogance and negligence, you would pay for what you did. You’d pay for it on a civil level in the form of restitution to your victim, and you’d pay for it on a criminal level with charges of kidnapping. Morally, the immigration cops who did this should be in jail. But, wait—once you strap on a badge and a gun, suddenly some sanctimonious buck-passing and excuse-making, with an
Oops, our bad tacked on along the way, is close enough for government work:
On Thursday, Warziniack finally became a free man. Immigration officials released him after his family, who learned about his predicament from McClatchy, produced a birth certificate and after a U.S. senator demanded his release.
The immigration agents told me they never make mistakes, Warziniack said in an earlier phone interview from jail.
All I know is that somebody dropped the ball.
Officials with ICE, the federal agency that oversees deportations, maintain that such cases are isolated because agents are required to obtain sufficient evidence that someone is an illegal immigrant before making an arrest. However, they don’t track the number of U.S. citizens who are detained or deported.
We don’t want to detain or deport U.S. citizens, said Ernestine Fobbs, an ICE spokeswoman.
It’s just not something we do.
… ICE’s Fobbs said agents move as quickly as possible to check stories of people who claim they’re American citizens. But she said that many of the cases involve complex legal arguments, such as whether U.S. citizenship is derived from parents, which an immigration judge has to sort out.
We have to be careful we don’t release the wrong person, she said.
—Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Washington Bureau (2008-01-24): Immigration officials detaining, deporting American citizens
Of course, if you really give a damn about avoiding mistakes, you might actually take some steps towards investigating, presuming innocence, and following some kind of basic due process before you throw living people down a legal memory hole. But that would require actually granting suspected illegal immigrants the as good or better legal privileges and immunities as are offered to suspects in a normal court proceeding, rather than presumptively throwing them into a
detention center and then running them through a parallel, unaccountable administrative process for today’s federal Fugitive Alien Law. And what La Migra gives a damn about is proving to bellowing Know-Nothing busybodies that they are
doing something to
crack down on illegal immigration—the lives, liberties, and livelihoods of bystanders be damned.
An unpublished study by the Vera Institute of Justice, a New York nonprofit organization, in 2006 identified 125 people in immigration detention centers across the nation who immigration lawyers believed had valid U.S. citizenship claims.
Vera initially focused on six facilities where most of the cases surfaced. The organization later broadened its analysis to 12 sites and plans to track the outcome of all cases involving citizens.
Nina Siulc, the lead researcher, said she thinks that many more American citizens probably are being erroneously detained or deported every year because her assessment looked at only a small number of those in custody. Each year, about 280,000 people are held on immigration violations at 15 federal detention centers and more than 400 state and local contract facilities nationwide.
Unlike suspects charged in criminal courts, detainees accused of immigration violations don’t have a right to an attorney, and three-quarters of them represent themselves. Less affluent or resourceful U.S. citizens who are detained must try to maneuver on their own through a complicated system.
It becomes your word against the government’s, even when you know and insist that you’re a U.S. citizen, Siulc said.
Your word doesn’t always count, and the government doesn’t always investigate fully.
While immigration advocates agree that the agents generally release detainees before deportation in clear-cut cases, they said that ICE sometimes ignores valid assertions of citizenship in the rush to ship out more illegal immigrants.
Proving citizenship is especially difficult for the poor, mentally ill, disabled or anyone who has trouble getting a copy of his or her birth certificate while behind bars.
Pedro Guzman, a mentally disabled U.S. citizen who was born in Los Angeles, was serving a 120-day sentence for trespassing last year when he was shipped off to Mexico. Guzman was found three months later trying to return home. Although federal government attorneys have acknowledged that Guzman was a citizen, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said Thursday that her agency still questions the validity of his birth certificate.
Last March, ICE agents in San Francisco detained Kebin Reyes, a 6-year-old boy who was born in the U.S., for 10 hours after his father was picked up in a sweep. His father says he wasn’t permitted to call relatives who could care for his son, although ICE denies turning down the request.
The number of U.S. citizens who are swept up in the immigration system is a small fraction of the number of illegal immigrants who are deported, but in the last several years immigration lawyers report seeing more detainees who turn out to be U.S. citizens.
The attorneys said the chances of mistakes are growing as immigration agents step up sweeps in the country and state and local prisons with less experience in immigration matters screen more criminals on behalf of ICE.
[ICE officials] said they were able to confirm [Warziniack’s] birth certificate, but they didn’t acknowledge any problem with the handling of the case.
The officials blamed conflicting information for the mix-up.
The burden of proof is on the individual to show they’re legally entitled to be in the United States, said ICE spokeswoman Kice.
I want to stress that the point here is not that this kind of treatment is wrong because the people being treated this way aren’t really illegal immigrants. I’m not saying that we need procedural protections for suspects because it’s better for a hundred guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to be punished. That’s not my point because morally, illegal immigrants aren’t guilty of a damned thing. U.S. citizens aren’t entitled to special treatment just because they are Estadounidenses; they’re entitled to be treated better than this because they are people. If there is no excuse for making U.S. citizens disappearing into legal limbo in a system of prisons and administrative law where they have no real civil liberties and no recourse to due process protections, and no excuse for trashing their lives and livelihoods by locking them up and exiling them from their homes, on the unspeakably arrogant presumption that it’s the citizen who has to prove to the government’s satisfaction that she has a right to live peacefully in her own home, then there’s no excause because there’s no excuse for treating anyone that way, no matter what their nationality and whether or not they have a permission slip to exist from the federal government. The thing itself is the abuse.
But the point that I do want to make is that if you’re a U.S. citizen, and you’re not convinced of the central importance of immigration law—if you believe that you can reliably secure your own freedom without paying attention to the way that governments treat undocumented immigrants—then you need to think a lot harder about what a system of immigration control necessarily entails. International apartheid requires mechanisms for detecting, and then either interdicting or rounding up, unauthorized immigrants. But to discover and then interfere with their presence in the country, it necessarily entails a system of paramilitary border control, and it also necessarily entails immigration dossiers, passbooks, and government surveillance. But these systems have to be inflicted both on citizens and on immigrants for them to make any sense at all; by definition, the government can’t discover immigrants who bypass the official documentation system by getting documentation of their undocumented status, so instead the border control State has to force everyone else to carry papers, to submit to La Migra’s surveillance, and to take on the burden of giving affirmative proof of our status whenever some prick with a clipboard demands it. There’s no way to block off opportunities for undocumented immigrants to move or to get jobs except by limiting everyone’s freedom of motion or employment to government-controlled chokepoints where papers can be demanded and inspected. And there’s no way to make undocumented immigrants disappear into legal limbo without also, at the same time, creating an ominous threat to any citizen who might come under La Migra’s suspicion or might have trouble producing her own papers on demand. There is no way for international apartheid to be enforced on immigrants without massive invasions on the privacy and liberties of non-immigrants, because the basic concept — the concept of a government with the power and prerogative to systematically screen who is and who is not allowed to exist within
its territory — requires everybody, whether their presence is authorized or unauthorized by the government, to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so.
What immigration law does to illegal immigrants is despicable. There is no excuse and it should be abolished immediately. But if you, reader, recognize this, but still don’t see how it personally concerns you, then you should look harder at the effects that immigration law necessarily inflicts on the rest of us in everyday life. Immigrant and citizen, documented and undocumented, the fact is that we are all in this together, and if we let the State spy and stomp on any of us, the system for implementing the policy is necessarily going to spy and stomp on all of us in the end.