Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pelosi outrages wingnuts with cold truth: Immigration raids are "un-American"

-- by Dave

Greater Wingnuttia wants to get all in an uproar about Nancy Pelosi's remarks the other night in San Francisco before a pro-immigrant gathering:

"Who in this country would not want to change a policy of kicking in doors in the middle of the night and sending a parent away from their families? It must be stopped. ... What value system is that? I think it's un-American."

Of course, Michelle Malkin and her wingnutospheric band of flying monkeys are in a nice little tizzy about this.

The clip also has been all over Fox News. Sean Hannity was all outraged about it Thursday night, and then yesterday it turned up again with the "All Star Panel."

But Juan Williams -- who often goes soft on liberal issues -- hit back hard at Charles Krauthammer, affirming that, indeed, these kinds of raids are un-American. He also managed to get to the heart of the matter -- namely, that our immigration laws themselves are profoundly un-American:

Williams: That's an unjust, wrongheaded law, and you see people who are benefiting this economy, people who are struggling for American values, absolutely being abused. It's an outrage.

Krauthammer: Controlling our borders is un-American?

Williams: It's not controlling our borders to go knocking on somebody's door in the middle of the night!

Krauthammer: You're enforcing the law.

Williams: You're enforcing an unjust law, and they are right to challenge it. She's saying it's wrong.

Williams is right, while Krauthammer is, well, Krauthammer. Ever since Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents began their campaign of massive raids last spring, they have terrorized Latino communities -- including the substantial portion of those communities that are here legally. There was also, from the outset, a decided and obvious racial component to the raids.

Perhaps the most searing indictment of the raids was Roberto Lovato's portrayal in The Nation of the situation in Georgia:

From the living room of the battered trailer she and her mother call home, Mancha described what happened when she came out of the shower that morning. "My mother went out, and I was alone," she said. "I was getting ready for school, getting dressed, when I heard this noise. I thought it was my mother coming back." She went on in the Tex-Mex Spanish-inflected Georgia accent now heard throughout Dixie: "Some people were slamming car doors outside the trailer. I heard footsteps and then a loud boom and then somebody screaming, asking if we were 'illegals,' 'Mexicans.' These big men were standing in my living room holding guns. One man blocked my doorway. Another guy grabbed a gun on his side. I freaked out. 'Oh, my God!' I yelled."

As more than twenty Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents surrounded the trailer, said Mancha, agents inside interrogated her. They asked her where her mother was; they wanted to know if her mother was "Mexican" and whether she had "papers" or a green card. They told her they were looking for "illegals."

After about five minutes of interrogation, the agents--who, according to the women's lawyer, Mary Bauer of the Southern Poverty Law Center, showed no warrants and had neither probable cause nor consent to enter the home--simply left. They left in all likelihood because Mancha and her mother didn't fit the profile of the workers at the nearby Crider poultry plant, who had been targeted by the raid in nearby Stilwell. They were the wrong kind of "Mexicans"; they were US citizens.

That was in one state. As I described elsewhere, this happened all over the country, producing scenes like the one 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."

Once arrested, the detainees were treated like cattle, too. The most public of these raids was the mass crackdown in Postville, Iowa, where the federal legal apparatus crossed the line into outright police-state behavior.

The most pointed portrait of this came in the form of an essay by Erik Camayd-Freixas, a Spanish-language court interpreter who was called in to help process detainees in the raid. It makes the devastating case that the Department of Homeland Security, in collusion with the Justice Department, is (in the words of one observer we heard from about this case) "basically gaming the Federal judiciary using existing law, rules and regulations to force the judiciary to act as a coerced agent of the executive to imprison undocumented workers, after which they are deported with a prison record."

As Camayd-Freixas makes clear, these workers were charged improperly with a crime of which they were innocent as the means of forcing them to plead guilty to a lesser charge, for which they then accepted five-month prison sentence.

The New York Times, in reviewing the evidence, editorialized:
Under the old way of doing things, the workers, nearly all Guatemalans, would have been simply and swiftly deported. But in a twist of Dickensian cruelty, more than 260 were charged as serious criminals for using false Social Security numbers or residency papers, and most were sentenced to five months in prison.

What is worse, Dr. Camayd-Freixas wrote, is that the system was clearly rigged for the wholesale imposition of mass guilt. He said the court-appointed lawyers had little time in the raids’ hectic aftermath to meet with the workers, many of whom ended up waiving their rights and seemed not to understand the complicated charges against them.

I particularly found this portion of Camayd-Freixas' essay chilling:

When the executive responded to post-9/11 criticism by integrating law enforcement operations and security intelligence, ICE was created as “the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)” with “broad law enforcement powers and authorities for enforcing more than 400 federal statutes”. A foreseeable effect of such broadness and integration was the concentration of authority in the executive branch, to the detriment of the constitutional separation of powers. Nowhere is this more evident than in Postville, where the expansive agency’s authority can be seen to impinge upon the judicial and legislative powers. “ICE’s team of attorneys constitutes the largest legal program in DHS, with more than 750 attorneys to support the ICE mission in the administrative and federal courts. ICE attorneys have also participated in temporary assignments to the Department of Justice as Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys spearheading criminal prosecutions of individuals. These assignments bring much needed support to taxed U.S. Attorneys’ offices”. English translation: under the guise of interagency cooperation, ICE prosecutors have infiltrated the judicial branch. Now we know who the architects were that spearheaded such a well crafted “fast-tracking” scheme, bogus charge and all, which had us all, down to the very judges, fall in line behind the shackled penguin march. Furthermore, by virtue of its magnitude and methods, ICE’s New War is unabashedly the aggressive deployment of its own brand of immigration reform, without congressional approval.

This, I suspect, may be what Pelosi had in mind in her fuller remarks on this matter:

"Also of great importance to the border communities is of course the issue of immigration. And by that I mean we need comprehension immigration reform. For the first time in a long time, the opportunity exists to enact comprehensive legislation. President Obama has made this a priority for his Administration. I know that yesterday he met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to reiterate his commitment to immigration reform.

"The CHC, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, has long taught the House Democratic Caucus and indeed the entire Congress what comprehensive immigration reform would look like. It would of course, secure our border, it would protect our workers, it would prohibit the exploitation of workers coming into our country and it would unite our families. Family unification is an important principle of our immigration and always has been.

"About a week and a half ago, Congressman Gutierrez was in San Francisco on a Saturday night. We were packed and jammed in St. Anthony's Church, hundreds and hundreds of people came. We heard from families who have had raids into their homes and into their families where families were separated. And at the time, I said it there and I'll say it here, that raids that break up families in that way, just kick in the door in the middle of the night, taking father, a parent away, that's just not the American way. It must stop. It's just not the American way. So we need this comprehensive reform, and we need it soon. And we need to stop those kinds of ICE raids in the meantime.

The wingnuts may stamp their feet and have a fit. But what must really anger them -- and maybe frighten them a little -- is the knowledge that a lot of Americans very much agree with her.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

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