Friday, December 14, 2007

Huckabee's 120 days

-- by Dave

I've been trying to envision what Mike Huckabee's immigration plan -- the one calling for the deportation of 10 to 12 million "illegal immigrants" within a 120-day period -- would look like.

After all, we're talking about truly enormous numbers. The logistics alone would be daunting: we're talking about rounding up and shipping out 100,000 people a day. These are numbers that make the notorious Palmer Raids of the 1920s look like a drop in the bucket.

Just to get a rough idea what we're talking about, let's review what recent raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids have looked like.

In Idaho:
One family with members who are U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents said they were terrified by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who came to their home in the predawn hours accompanied by Blaine County sheriff's deputies. No one in their home was arrested.

"They pounded on my door so hard that my walls shook," Dana Ayala, a Wood River Valley resident and U.S. citizen, told the Idaho Community Action Network. "My 19-year-old son opened the door to see what was happening, and six agents armed with guns, Tasers and flashlights pushed their way into my home."

... "It is clear that ICE agents terrorized the community, including U.S. citizen children who were sleeping when the raid occurred," said Leo Morales, a community organizer for ICAN. "In several homes, children were left crying as ICE agents interrogated parents and hauled them away.

Testimonies gathered on Tuesday also indicated that in several instances ICE agents walked into the home looking for individuals not living there, then arrested the people in the home with no proof of immigration status.

In some instances, federal agents rushed into the house when a child opened the door."

Arlington Heights, Ill.:
On the morning of Feb. 27, ICE agents swept into the Cano Packaging Corporation in Arlington Heights, Ill., a mostly middle class, white suburb 25 miles from Chicago. The agents arrested the undocumented immigrants who had been hired by a temporary staffing agency to work at Cano. The nine men and eight women were then bused to a jail, which also serves as a regional immigration detention facility.

Maria de Carmen Santana says she was invasively strip-searched, and told the process was a search for hidden drugs. She was handcuffed so tightly that it left marks on her wrists, she says, and she was unable to get pain medication for severe tendonitis in her ankle.

“It was disgusting how we were treated,” Santana, 46, says in Spanish. “We aren’t murderers. We aren’t drug addicts. Our only crime is being here to work without papers.”

One woman alleges she was denied medical help while vomiting, and another when suffering an intense migraine. An ailing diabetic man was forced to do exercises as punishment for not making his bed. Detainees say the facility’s meal portions left them extremely hungry, and a guard threw out fruit that detainee Leonel Trujillo had stashed in his cell.

Arkadelphia, Ark.:
On Tuesday, July 26, between 30 and 35 children, some as young as three months old, were left stranded when federal agents arrested 119 immigrant workers at the Petit Jean Poultry plant in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. No provisions were made for these children as their parents were carted 70 miles away to a detention center to await deportation.

Many of these families, now forcibly torn apart, had lived and worked at the company for years. Of those detained, 115 were from Mexico, two were from Honduras and the other two were from El Salvador and Guatemala.

This surprise raid caught the town’s mayor, the Clark County sheriff, and the plant manager by surprise, and no provisions were made to care for the children or to alert relatives. The federal agents failed to even contact the Department of Human Services, the agency that is usually responsible for abandoned children.

“A lot of those families had kids in day care in different places, and they didn’t know why Mommy and Daddy didn’t come pick them up,” Arkadelphia Mayor Charles Hollingshead told the Associated Press.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman claimed Friday that every one of the immigrants had lied to the agents, telling them they had no children. He later changed his story, admitting that the detainees did tell the agents that they had children left behind. Still, the agents did not allow the detainees to contact their families to make arrangements for their children.

Jose Luis Vidal told the Associated Press that his sister and brother-in-law left behind children aged ten, five and one when they were deported to Laredo, Mexico.

New Bedford, Mass.:
The heads of three state agencies appeared before the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities to discuss the impact of the March 6raid on New Bedford's children. ...

The raid on Michael Bianco Inc., in which 361 immigrants were arrested, had a huge ripple effect across the immigrant community, according to state officials. Eighty-four children in New Bedford were directly affected by the raid, losing one or both of their parents. Children were left in the care of aunts, uncles, baby-sitters and even landlords. One baby was hospitalized for dehydration after being separated from its nursing mother.

Gov. Deval Patrick has called the raid's impact on families a "humanitarian crisis."

And the trauma is continuing, according to Dennis Gauthier, head of the DSS office in New Bedford.

His agency discovered two days ago that a 16-year-old girl, "living in fear," had been cared for by a landlord for the past two weeks.

DSS has also placed three teenagers who were swept up in the raid in foster care, he said, because ICE would not allow them to be released to parents who are illegal immigrants.

DSS is still pressing ICE to release 10 parents to care for children, including the mother of a 4-year old boy who is not eating and is severely underweight.

"This child needs his mother back," said Mr. Spence, noting that the child is living with his father. "This child is not safe. This child is at risk. Release the mother with a monitoring bracelet, that's what we've asked."

Marshalltown, Iowa:
Like the March 6 raid on the Michael Bianco Inc. leather goods factory in New Bedford, in which more than 300 workers were arrested, the Swift operation left some children stranded for hours, and many others in the care of friends and relatives. ICE flew many detainees to an out-of-state federal detention facility before immigrants' advocates had a chance to speak with them about their children. Some detainees were not initially honest with ICE investigators about whether they had children, fearing they, too, would be taken into custody even though some of those children were US citizens.

And like the New Bedford raid, the Swift raids drew harsh criticism from the governor, who criticized ICE's limited cooperation with state officials, including its refusal to release information in a timely fashion on who was detained and where.

Immigration raids nationwide have increased in recent months. Scenes similar to those in New Bedford and Marshalltown have played out in cities like Worthington, Minn., and Stillmore, Ga., where a poultry plant was raided last Labor Day. In Santa Fe, 30 undocumented workers were arrested in a raid in February, and Mayor David Coss said he was outraged that "families are being torn apart, literally."

Richmond, Calif.:
In and around Richmond, Calif., 119 people were arrested in January in a series of raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Richmond Mayor Gail McLaughlin said that although authorities characterized those arrested as "criminals and gang bangers," only 18 had criminal convictions.

"I was shocked and disgusted," she said. "The overwhelming majority of their sweeps arrested hard-working men, mothers and school children."

Demographers say about half of working-age illegal immigrants in the United States have children, most of whom are U.S.-born and therefore citizens. Non-profit groups are helping these families prepare for the worst.

Immigrant parents are signing forms designating who should get custody of their children if they're detained or deported. Often, that means a relative with legal status.

This is just a sampling, of course. Now try to imagine, if you will, these kinds of nightmares being amplified by a factor of a half-million or more.

... I know it's hard to imagine such a thing. Because we all know that as the push to search out all 12 million intensifies, so will the ugliness of the raids.

And let's not forget that rounding people up is only the beginning: There is, fortunately, such a thing as due process in America, even for non-citizens, which means that each one of these 10 to 12 million people will have to have their cases reviewed. In the meantime, they'll have to be placed in detention centers.

When you're talking about 100,000 people a day, you're talking numbers well beyond the capacity of any current holding facility or detention center operating in America. And because the need will be ostensibly short-term, that means we'll almost certainly once again be building temporary mass detention centers -- otherwise known as concentration camps.

Of course, this country already has some experience with that. And sure enough, in response simply to the increased demand under Bush's relatively modest push for illegal-immigrant roundups, we're building them again.

Just what kind of America is it that Mike Huckabee envisions? Has anyone thought about what this country will look like -- not just ethnically and racially, but ethically and morally -- after he has his 120 days?

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