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Burying the lede

I am as critical as the next blogger about abuses of police power, but when Partha writes about post-9/11 immigration enforcement that "what was done was not legal", he's simply exhibiting the knee-jerk reaction the New York Times wants him to. He skips the eighth word in the very first sentence of the article. Hundreds of illegal immigrants were rounded up. It is not, of course, "un-American and un-Constitutional" to detain and then deport illegal immigrants.

The article begins by pointing out that many of the people arrested had no connection to terrorism, and then goes into great detail about their treatment, but underplays considerably the fact that the people who were detained were, in fact, criminals. Indeed, as the article notes, "most of the 762 immigrants have now been deported." Although the Times does include one sentence suggesting actual legal problems --

But the inspector general's report found that some lawyers in the department raised concerns about the legality of the tactics, only to be overridden by senior officials.
- it fails to elaborate on this in any way, or provide any evidence to back up the suggestion that laws were broken or rights were violated.

This is part of a pattern of New York Times stories portraying illegal immigrants as victims, rather than criminals. It's apparently true that (a) most of those arrested were not dangerous, and (b) most of these people would never have been arrested had it not been for the post-9/11 crackdown. As such, it would be reasonable to question whether post-9/11 immigration enforcement has been efficient or even effective. But that in no way is synonymous with the idea that these people were wrongly arrested. If the Times wishes to take the last as its editorial position, if they wish to argue that the nation's immigration laws shouldn't be enforced, they should do so overtly, rather than using the news section to repeatedly insinuate that the government violated the rights of criminals by arresting them. And if the Times has evidence that laws were actually broken, it should say so.


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Comments (2)

Partha Mazumdar:

The Times has the evidence; from the report the Times was discussing:

"The conditions of confinement were also not proper, the inspector general found. Detention centers routinely blocked efforts by detainees' families and lawyers to locate them. Detainees who did not have legal counsel were often made to wait weeks or months before receiving a list of lawyers who could represent them. The report also identified a "pattern of physical and verbal abuse" against some detainees. Some were held in lockdowns for 23 hours a day and taken outside their cells in a "four-man hold," using handcuffs, leg irons and heavy chains. Detainees reported being slammed against the wall, or being subjected to such verbal taunts as "You're going to die here.""


I just don't think this kind of treatment should be dismissed or even condoned just because they were illegal aliens.

This kind of treatment is bad. And illegal. And unconstitutional. And un-American.

Dave S:

This story reminds me of a recent article I saw on CNN.com, where they interviewed the guys who had been detained on a train in Texas shortly after 9/11. They ended up not having any links to terrorism and were deported to India. It was presented as a real sob story, as though these guys were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and were victims of the whole situation. There was even a quote about how these guys will no longer view the US as the land of opportunity they once thought it was.

Of course, what the story didn't tell you until later on (although it might have received cursory mention earlier) is that, before being deported, both of these guys confessed to other crimes (identity and credit card fraud type stuff) and served time for them. Neither of them denied having committed these crimes in the CNN story. It seems like their only legitimate complaint is that they wouldn't have been caught if it hadn't been for 9/11. Only in that sense were they in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now, some of the conditions they faced in prison seem to have been legitimately terrible and illegal--though this is probably more of an indictment of the prison system in general, rather than something specifically related to 9/11. But anyone who thinks that the American dream is about selling stolen SS #'s and credit cards is probably not going to be living that dream for long, and I have a hard time feeling much sympathy for the way they were treated.


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