I just read a news story about a recent early-morning raid by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICEA), often referred to as ICE.
Apparently unmarked vehicles showed up in residential neighborhoods and people wearing “Police” or civilian clothes knocked on doors in the early hours before sunrise. The ICEA had a list of names and addresses that they based the raid upon, but once inside the home they arrested anyone who could not immediately produce papers.
In one case, a family awoke to a knock on their door at 4 a.m. The agents identified themselves as police, and the residents let them in, Keegan said. The agents asked if a certain person was home, and the residents told them that that person didnâ€™t live there.
Then the agents asked those present to provide proof that they were here legally. Two married couples were unable to provide the necessary documents, and the agents arrested the men, Keegan said.
When the agents were asked why they didnâ€™t take arrest the women, they said that the women could stay to take care of their children, he said.
Those arrested were then moved to Fresno and deported out of the country within 24 hours, including a vast majority with no criminal record and some who were mothers of small children:
Several people had been arrested who would have been allowed to stay had they had an opportunity to show an immigration judge that they had dependents that would be left behind, Live Oak-based immigration attorney Alisa Thomas said after the meeting.
Among those ICE had already transported out of the country were a mother whose seven children were left in the care of their father, who works two jobs, she said. The youngest of the children, a 1 1/2 year old, went into convulsions and was hospitalized while the mother was being taken to Mexico, she said.
An immigration judge would likely have granted a stay in the motherâ€™s case, she said.
â€œI could have shown them this U.S. citizen, this 1 1/2-year-old child is going to die,â€? Thomas said.
In another case, both parents of a 13-year-old and a 20-year-old were arrested, she said. In a third case, the working husband of a U.S. citizen housewife was arrested.
â€œIâ€™ve never seen cases this heart wrenching, and so many of them together,â€? Thomas said.
There are many issues with this case, but most notable perhaps is that this action directly contradicts the message given by President Bush in his press conference yesterday:
And, finally, we’re going to have to treat people with dignity in this country. Ours is a nation of immigrants, and when Congress gets down to a comprehensive bill, I would just remind them, it’s virtually impossible to try to find 11 million folks who have been here, working hard — and, in some cases, raising families — and kick them out. It’s just not going to work.
Not going to work…
I just heard a radio program where the commentators suggested that the new ICEA policy has a disturbing shade of history to it: “first they came for the Muslims, then they came for the Chicanos…”. A comment on the article page carries a similar tone:
Of the 107 detained people, only 19 had criminal warrants. Kids were left without their parents, wives without their husbands, husbands without their wives, and we have racist idiots saying this is a good thing? Since August, the ICE has arrested 24,000 undocumented people nationwide, yet only 6,800 have been deported. Where are the rest?
24,000 people in a little over a month’s time is quite a number, and has not been on the front page of any news I’ve seen. In this particular case only 19 had warrants so it is conceivable the rest could have kept their door closed and sent the agents away, unless of course the police determined that forced entry was allowable under the new rules of engagement. The article also provides an ICEA perspective:
[ICEA representative Lori Haley] also noted that the agency had merely carried out its duties under the law. Anyone disagreeing with the agencies actions should call on their political representatives to change the law.
This seems to be consistent with the Bush Administration. Their position has been that they can violate the Geneva convention under their law, they can violate international human rights principles under their law, they can even violate the constitution under the law. Oh, did I say “violate”? I meant interpret. Interpretation of the law is a long and expensive process that means they will act with self-inspired “clarity” until vague concepts of ethics and rights can be resolved later (after they control the courts). Mr. Bush had this to say in yesterday’s press conference:
We’re trying to clarify law. We’re trying to set high standards, not ambiguous standards.
And let me just repeat, Dave, we can debate this issue all we want, but the practical matter is, if our professionals don’t have clear standards in the law, the program is not going to go forward. You cannot ask a young intelligence officer to violate the law. And they’re not going to. They — let me finish, please — they will not violate the law. You can ask this question all you want, but the bottom line is — and the American people have got to understand this — that this program won’t go forward; if there is vague standards applied, like those in Common Article III from the Geneva Convention, it’s just not going to go forward. You can’t ask a young professional on the front line of protecting this country to violate law.
In other words, Mr. Bush would like to operate above the law, but if that is not acceptable then he will declare them ambiguous until he can re-write them. In his recent interview with Matt Lauer, Bush had this exchange in response to questions about the need for secret CIA facilities:
President Bush: So what? Why is that not within the law?
Matt Lauer: The head of Amnesty International says secret sites are against international law.
President Bush: Well, we just disagree with him.
Does he have a hard time understanding what it means when Article III of the Geneva Convnetion says “Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely”? No seriously, Bush appeared to suggest in his press conference that the best and brightest working under him could not be expected to understand Article III:
THE PRESIDENT: This debate is occurring because of the Supreme Court’s ruling that said that we must conduct ourselves under the Common Article III of the Geneva Convention. And that Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It’s very vague. What does that mean, “outrages upon human dignity”? That’s a statement that is wide open to interpretation. And what I’m proposing is that there be clarity in the law so that our professionals will have no doubt that that which they are doing is legal. You know, it’s — and so the piece of legislation I sent up there provides our professionals that which is needed to go forward.
Now, the Court said that you’ve got to live under Article III of the Geneva Convention, and the standards are so vague that our professionals won’t be able to carry forward the program, because they don’t want to be tried as war criminals. They don’t want to break the law.
I feel I must point out that Mr. Bush did not mention that the phrase is actually written:
outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment
Does the rest of the phrase clarify? Surely he left it out for a reason, such as “humiliating and degrading treatment” is something he disagrees with, or that Albert “I refuse to answer clearly” Gonzales told him to disagree with? Perhaps he believe it ties the hands of the “professionals” he is ultimately responsible for, such as those caught humiliating detainees in Abu Ghraib?
As a matter of fact, the key findings by the Army investigation of the Abu Ghraib abuse actually contradict Bush’s statements to the press:
Soldiers knew they were violating approved techniques and procedures.
Abuse would not have occured if Army doctrine had been followed and mission training conducted.
Factors contributing to abuses include:
- Individual criminal propensities
- Safety and security conditions
- Multiple agencies and organizations involved in interrogation
- Failure to screen and integrate contractor interrogators
- Lack of understanding of military police and military intelligence roles
- Dysfunctional relationships among commanders
Hmmm. I do not see “ambiguity of Geneva convention” on that list.
As you can see, Mr. Bush clearly suggested that it is the fault of the terms of the Geneva convention that limits the ability of the interrogators, but the Army disagrees. While they say existing “detention doctrine needs to be updated and refined” the key points really suggest leadership and management are the most flawed and in need of improvement in order to enable law-abiding interrogation.
The plan of the Bush Administration thus appears to be: First ignore reports, fire dissenters and misquote international law, declaring it an ambiguous and thus uninforceable standard. Cherry-pick terms and show how they have no meaning when isolated. Use phrases like “our hands are tied and we are in danger”. Then propose a new domestic law heavily biased in favor of a particular view (as opposed to blind justice for everyone) and paint anyone who objects with that view as a sympathizer with the enemy. Say something like “We are righteous in our cause, unlike those who are soft” and “We can and will only do good with our powers, they can only do evil”. Then declare the new law as a “more enforceable” standard that will be righteous and good, more relevant than international treaties. Again threaten anyone who objects as a weakling or an obstructionist to justice. Finally, show a short tempered approach to negotiation and that everyone else in the world should adopt their new unilateral interpretation of law or prepare to succumb to your righteousness.
Let me be clear about this. Mr. Bush was asked whether other countries should be able to write laws that the US finds objectionable. Mr. Bush’s answer, which was not really an answer but more of a threat, was that other countries should adopt his law:
Q Sir, with respect, if other countries interpret the Geneva Conventions as they see fit — as they see fit — you’re saying that you’d be okay with that?
THE PRESIDENT: I am saying that I would hope that they would adopt the same standards we adopt; and that by clarifying Article III, we make it stronger, we make it clearer, we make it definite.
Strong, clear, definite. No room for interpretation by someone else. I don’t think Joseph Stalin could have said it any better. Actually, Stalin said:
Ideas are far more powerful than guns. We don’t allow our enemies to have guns, why should we allow them to have ideas?
Scary parallels, no? For a true contrast, consider what Jack Straw, then Foreign Secretary, said in March 2006 as he launched the new UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office strategy:
At the heart of any foreign policy must lie a set of fundamental values. For this Government, the values that we promote abroad are those that guide our actions at home. We seek a world in which freedom, justice and opportunity thrive, in which governments are accountable to the people, protect their rights and guarantee their security and basic needs. We do so because these are the values we believe to be right. And because such a world is the best guarantee of the security and prosperity of the people of the United Kingdom.