The Varick Street Detention Center has an ‘immigrant jail’ holding 250 people kidnapped by the government—100 of whom, held without charges, have petitioned they endure grossly inhuman conditions and slave labor—shines a brighter light on the illegitimacy of immigration law.
The New York Bar Association received a petition in October 2008 signed by 100 detainees in New York City’s Varick Street Detention Center describing “cramped, filthy quarters where dire medical needs were ignored and hungry prisoners were put to work for $1 a day”, Nina Bernstein reports at The New York Times (NYT). All 100 men are imprisoned without charges.
“Varick’s population includes illegal immigrants, asylum-seekers and legal immigrants who face deportation because they have past criminal convictions,” she adds. “Almost half of those screened by the volunteer lawyers have already been in detention for four to six months, according to the bar association report, and nearly 40 percent have legal grounds to contest deportation.”
Sean Smith, a spokesman for Secretary of Homeland Security (D.H.S.) Janet Napolitano and overseer of immigration enforcement, said: “Immigration and Customs Enforcement considers the access to legal services at Varick Street as a good model.”
In a report issued Monday, the Association’s City Bar Justice Center confirms the claims “after finding that most detainees with a legal claim to stay in the United States are routinely transferred to more remote jails before they can be helped,” Ms. Bernstein reports. “The lawyers say their effort has laid bare the fundamental unfairness of a system where immigrant detainees, unlike criminal defendants, can be held without legal representation and moved from state to state without notice.”
Immigrants kidnapped to U.S. detention centers are put in solitary confinement, not allowed outdoor rec time, are denied legal access for prolonged periods of time, the National Immigration Law Center reported late last July.
Ms. Bernstein continues:
The new focus on Varick highlights the conflict between two forces: the administration’s plans to revamp detention, and current policies that feed the flow of detainees through the system as it is now. A disjointed mix of county jails and privately run prisons, where mistreatment and medical neglect have been widely documented, the detention network churns roughly 400,000 detainees through 32,000 beds each year….
A Dominican man there died of untreated pneumonia in 1999—the first reported death in the nationwide detention system, which now counts 106 since October 2003.
The Varick facility… fell short of national detention standards adopted in 2000, because it lacks any outdoor recreation space. But under a grandfather clause, it was allowed to remain open until 9/11, when the terror attack, blocks away, forced its evacuation. For years, it was shuttered. It quietly reopened in February 2008, operated by Ahtna Technical Services Inc., a subsidiary of Ahtna Inc.—still with no access to fresh air.
As an Alaska Native corporation, Ahtna has won numerous federal contracts without having to compete with other companies; last year it paid its tribal shareholders about $500 each in dividends. It hires a Texas subcontractor to supply guards and transportation, along with the shackles and belly chains routinely used on detainees being moved in or out….
A few, the report says, have a possible claim to citizenship, which would make their detention unlawful. But the volunteers, including lawyers from 16 corporate firms, say they can offer only rudimentary legal triage to a handful of detainees a week.
Ms. Bernstein briefs stories of:
- A 25-year-old ‘legal’ immigrant from Belize since age 2 who was arrested while working at a Kentucky Fried Chicken to support his 5-year-old daughter. A past marijuana possession charge makes his ineligible for bond or an electronic bracelet;
- A Haitian ‘legal’ immigrant—a barber and interpreter—has been held for 16 months after having legally lived in Brooklyn for 23 years. He won’t be released because he was once imprisoned on a drug-related ‘offense’;
- Daniel I. Miller, 39, a Romanian-born man whose petition reached the bar. He came to the U.S. in 1994 after “the secret police mutilated him for advocating gay rights”. He was paroled for signing his partner’s name on a contract and released to have tumors on his liver treated after being isolated with a murder defendant for circulating the petition.
Libertarians, defenders of individual rights and civil liberties, individuals who claim to be moral agents should be sickened by the assertion of government force on people born on ‘that dirt’ instead of ‘this dirt’. Besides the fact that the U.S. government carrying no moral legitimacy to execute such force with petty ‘rationale’—as the agency which has committed among the most murder and theft in the world—immigration law enforced by governments are morally illegitimate.
Immigration law tells the U.S. ‘citizen’ that if he wants to employ, sell or rent property, provide haven to an individual born on ‘that dirt’, he will be robbed of his property via fines or kidnapped. If he wants to resist, the government will take out its guns and threaten to shoot him.
These laws tell the individual born on ‘that dirt’—as opposed to ‘this dirt’—that if he comes over to ‘this dirt’ with a quest to labor and reap the fruits of that labor. This further delegitimizes kidnapping individuals and cramping them into concentration camps, depriving them of the most basic medical care, starving them and forcing them into slave labor. If they resist, they will be shot and the government agents who shoot him might be regarded as heroes.
This is the disgusting anti-liberty message of enforcement against immigrants. Sadly, many who claim to be libertarians assert this message, coupled with platitudes of rube’ish nationalism and narcissistic sovereignty.
A hero of many of these so-called ‘libertarians’ is Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) who campaigned for president in 2008 on a platform of more strict immigration law enforcement which included stealing property from people to erect fences, apartheid-esque walls and station armed government thugs to shoot people attempted to crossover from ‘that dirt’.
This conservative acceptance of the status quo is disguised as defending the rule of law and crosses party lines and political ideologies in the U.S. A vast majority of Americans of the working, intellectual and political classes approve of their government acting in some manner to enforce these immoral laws. This is a prime example of tyranny-of-the-majority in action. This tyranny has asserted this authority—though, it has yet to justify its legitimacy by meeting a burden of proof to deprive so many individuals of their natural rights to life, liberty, labor and the fruits of that labor.
An “unlimited” amount of immigration agents will be cross-designated as U.S. drug warriors, Josh Meyer reported at The Los Angeles Times in June. In late July, the Obama Administration expanded Program 287(g) to grant local enforcement with the powers of federal immigration agents to employ racial profiling, arbitrary confiscation of property and indefinite kidnapping.
“[The Administration] is pursuing an aggressive strategy for an illegal-immigration crackdown that relies significantly on programs started by his predecessor,” Julia Preston reported at the NYT last August. “The administration recently undertook audits of employee paperwork at hundreds of businesses, expanded a program to verify worker immigration status that has been widely criticized as flawed, bolstered a program of cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies, and rejected proposals for legally binding rules governing conditions in immigration detention centers.”
Before being appointed to the Administration, D.H.S. Secretary Janet Napolitano was governor of Arizona—known as a “laboratory for anti-immigrant laws”, much of it within the “Constitution Free Zone” along the border where “the government is assuming extraordinary powers to stop and search individuals within this zone”, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. In her home state, there’s a large to push to “criminalize the very presence of undocumented immigrants”, Valeria Fernández reported at Inter Press Services last week.
In its execution of 287(g), “local politicians renewed a push to pass legislation that would make it a misdemeanor to trespass on state lands, allowing local police to arrest anyone illegally in the country”, she continued, adding that most people are detained through traffic stops. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, “one of the most controversial figures in the illegal immigration crackdown in Arizona… is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice for allegations of racial profiling and abuse during his immigration crackdown”.
Still, the discourse surrounding policy, detention centers and figureheads like the Arizona sheriff miss the tyranny blind acceptance that immigration laws carry any ounce of moral legitimacy. The term “illegal” is a dehumanizing word in itself, as the criminalization of a human being’s existence should never be tolerated. Similarity, neither should an individual’s lack of government-endorsed documentation.
At the age of 14, I heard the statement, “Nationalism is racism,” for the first time. Immigration law is an ignorance proving that truism. Kidnapping, enslavement, deplorable detention conditions, forced relocation and the existential threat of being shot for existing should never be tolerated in anything that wants to claim it comes anywhere near resembling a reasonably rational, just, free society.