Immigration

Survive an Earthquake or Plead to a Misdemeanor, Go to Jail Indefinitely

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If you wanted to, you could make yourself vomit every day by reading stories about what our incomprehensible immigration system ends up doing to human beings. Here's today's example, from the newspaper that probably reports more of these horror stories than any other, The New York Times:

Wilkommen!

More than two months after the earthquake that devastated Haiti, at least 30 survivors who were waved onto planes by Marines in the chaotic aftermath are prisoners of the United States immigration system, locked up since their arrival in detention centers in Florida.

In Haiti, some were pulled from the rubble, their legal advocates say. Some lost parents, siblings or children. Many were seeking food, safety or medical care at the Port-au-Prince airport when terrifying aftershocks prompted hasty evacuations by military transports, with no time for immigration processing. None have criminal histories.

But when they landed in the United States without visas, they were taken into custody by immigration authorities and held for deportation, even though deportations to Haiti have been suspended indefinitely since the earthquake. Legal advocates who stumbled on the survivors in February at the Broward County Transitional Center, a privately operated immigration jail in Pompano Beach, Fla., have tried for weeks to persuade government officials to release them to citizen relatives who are eager to take them in, letters and affidavits show.

Want another awful story from the day before, with an extra twist for you Drug War-haters out there? Here ye go:

There's been a problem with your file

ELMONT, N.Y. — When a police officer in this Long Island suburb found a marijuana cigarette in Jerry Lemaine's pocket one night in January 2007, a Legal Aid lawyer counseled him to plead guilty. Under state statutes, the penalty was only a $100 fine, and though Mr. Lemaine had been caught with a small amount of marijuana years earlier as a teenager, that case had been dismissed.

But Mr. Lemaine, a legal permanent resident, soon discovered that his quick guilty plea had dire consequences. Immigration authorities flew him in shackles to Texas, where he spent three years behind bars, including 10 months in solitary confinement, as he fought deportation to Haiti, the country he had left at age 3.

Under federal rulings that prevailed in Texas, Mr. Lemaine had lost the legal opportunity that rulings in New York would have allowed: to have an immigration judge weigh his offenses, including earlier misdemeanors resolved without jail time, against other aspects of his life, like his nursing studies at Hunter Business School; his care for his little sister, a United States citizen with a brain disorder; and the help he gave his divorced mother, who had worked double shifts to move the family out of a dangerous Brooklyn neighborhood.

Reason on immigration here.