Crime

Muddled Masses

The immigration detention system treats suspected illegal aliens like criminals, but with fewer rights.

|

One Saturday morning in May 2010, Francisco Gomez Escobar was walking just yards from his apartment building, chatting with his roommate and friend Edith Santiago. Gomez, a 35-year-old landscaper from Mexico, and Santiago, a 51-year-old janitor born in Camden, New Jersey, were trying to decide when to meet after he went to a flea market and she visited a thrift store. A police car pulled up.

It's not clear what the police were doing there. Santiago's lawyer says the two officers told him they were investigating a loud party from the night before, while a police spokesman says Gomez had seen the officers minutes earlier and aroused suspicion by trying to avoid them. Santiago, Gomez, and a neighbor say the cops immediately started asking Gomez about his immigration status, then roughed him up and arrested him. They apparently were suspicious about a blender, a boombox, and CDs that Santiago and Gomez were carrying. Santiago and Gomez say they were taking them to sell at a flea market, and the police spokesman says the officers did not have probable cause to charge them with any crime related to the items. The incident nevertheless landed Gomez in an immigration jail two states away, where he has been confined for nearly a year while he waits to see whether he will have to leave the country where he has lived for at least the past 15 years.

This encounter did not take place in Arizona, where a controversial law enacted last year, on hold as a result of a federal injunction, requires police to question suspected illegal immigrants about their citizenship status. It happened in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Police Chief Harry Dolan has spoken out against the Arizona law. Raleigh police are not even among the 70 or so municipal law enforcement agencies in 26 states that are trained to enforce federal immigration law by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). That program, authorized under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, has expanded dramatically since 9/11.

For Gomez, it didn't matter that Raleigh police don't participate in 287(g) because the Wake County Sheriff's Department, which runs the local jail, does. The department was also the first agency in North Carolina to sign onto the Department of Homeland Security's Secure Communities program, which means deputies have ready access to ICE databases and electronically alert the agency when an unauthorized alien has been fingerprinted in the jail. That's how Gomez ended up behind bars.

Secure Communities and 287(g) are supposed to focus the federal government's immigration enforcement powers on "criminal aliens"—illegal immigrants who commit crimes and thus come into contact with local cops performing their regular duties. In practice, however, many noncriminal aliens, whose lawbreaking is limited to the civil offense of living in the United States without permission, get swept up in this dragnet. As a result, they are treated like criminals, but without the legal protections that criminal defendants enjoy. They are subject to indefinite detention, and they can be ordered out of the country based on a legal process much less rigorous than a criminal trial.

In the post-9/11 political climate, local cops are tasked with enforcing civil immigration laws, whether they've been trained for it or not. Rogue officers can set an immigrant on a path to detention and deportation even if immigration enforcement is not within their authority. While detained, suspected illegal aliens may suffer from medical neglect and physical abuse. Their freedom, health, and safety depend on the whims of police, federal agents, judges, and jailers.

Federal Law, Local Enforcement

The overall number of noncitizens apprehended by federal authorities fell by almost two-thirds between 2001 and 2009, from about 1.6 million to just over 600,000. Yet the number detained in ICE jails during this time rose by 85 percent, from 209,000 to a record 383,500. Some 32,000 are in detention on any given day in about 370 facilities across the nation, most of which are state prisons and local jails in which ICE pays for space.

The assistance of local law enforcement agencies has played a crucial role in the surge of detentions. As of March, more than 1,100 local jails across the country, 36 percent of the total, were participating in Secure Communities. As a result, an undocumented immigrant jailed for any reason anywhere in Florida, the Southwest, or the mid-Atlantic states faces potential deportation. By 2013 ICE aims to have full participation by every local jail in the United States, which will result in an estimated annual identification of 1.4 million undocumented immigrants (out of 11 million or so currently residing in the U.S.). 

Because they lead to incarceration, 287(g) and Secure Communities effectively criminalize immigration violations, which the U.S. had historically handled as civil matters in special administrative courts. Immigration courts, crucially, are not bound by the same rules as criminal courts. Suspected illegal aliens do not have an absolute right to an attorney: The government can't stop them from hiring a lawyer, but they can't fall back on a public defender. Nor do they have a right to see exculpatory evidence. Judges can allow hearsay and illegally obtained evidence. To make its case, the government has to provide "clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence," not the proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" required in criminal cases. Hence an immigrant like Gomez can be deported even with only doubtful evidence that he entered the country illegally, and even if the police never should have approached him in the first place. Nor can he count on the immigration courts to protect what limited rights he has. According to the American Bar Association, immigration judges apply the law inconsistently and the Board of Immigration Appeals "unduly favor[s] the government at the expense of the noncitizen."

Since ICE detentions have risen dramatically in the last decade, thanks largely to the assistance of local police, the immigration courts are clogged. Karen Grisez, an immigration attorney who chairs the American Bar Association's Commission on Immigration, says judges are under pressure to process detainees' cases within 60 days, meaning nondetained immigrants have to wait at least a year for their cases to be heard. And when they are, judges limit the hearing to two hours, which leaves little time to call witnesses. "You can be precluded from making your best case," Grisez says. "The problem is not really that the law has changed but the more aggressive enforcement."

Officially, the enforcement efforts are supposed to focus on spies, terrorists, violent criminals, felons, repeat offenders, gang members, and others who "pose a serious risk to public safety." In a March 2011 memo, ICE Director John Morton reiterated this policy, which was developed under President George W. Bush and maintained under President Barack Obama.

But the record of ICE's "fugitive operations teams," which track and arrest illegal immigrants at their jobs and in their homes, suggests that the agency is not following its official policy of deporting immigrants who commit crimes, as opposed to violating civil immigration rules. Between 2003 and 2008, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a D.C.-based think tank that studies immigration around the world, only 27 percent of the people arrested by the teams had prior criminal records of any kind. Similarly, according to a 2009 report from the Department of Homeland Security (which oversees ICE), two-thirds of all ICE detainees between 2007 and 2009 had no prior criminal record.

Furthermore, some detainees with criminal records committed their offenses long ago, but ICE is moving only now to deport them, even if they have been living in the country legally for many years. In North Carolina, Hector Villanueva, a Baptist pastor with a valid green card, faces deportation because ICE agents learned of a 15-year-old burglary conviction in California. In New York, the Dominican cab driver Eligio Valerio is fighting ICE's attempt to remove him from the country for possessing an illegal gun in 1982, shortly after he became a permanent resident.

You might think that partnerships with local police, whose mission is to protect public safety, would help ensure that immigration enforcement focuses on dangerous criminals. But officers participating in 287(g) and Secure Communities can choose to round up illegal immigrants, including otherwise law-abiding people who came to the U.S. to work and support their families. Under 287(g), Grisez reports, police have gone to apartment complexes looking for one family, found they had moved, and then questioned the new tenants about their status. "Even though all of the laws on their face say there can't be racial profiling," she says, "some of these cooperative agreements lend themselves to officers going a bit overboard."

In fiscal year 2009, local law enforcement agencies participating in Secure Communities arrested 111,000 undocumented immigrants, nearly one-third of the national total. According to ICE, less than 10 percent of them were charged with violent crimes. Between 2007 and 2009, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found, only 13 percent of immigrants detained under 287(g) in that state had been charged with felonies. In some counties, the UNC researchers found, the only charge for nearly a third of the immigrants deported was driving without a valid license.

Since undocumented immigrants cannot legally obtain driver's licenses in many states, 287(g) and Secure Communities invite racial profiling of Hispanics through license checkpoints and traffic patrols. "If the only charge they could find to put on a driver is driving while license revoked," says Elizabeth Simpson, an immigration lawyer with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice who is representing Gomez pro bono, "I have to wonder why they pulled him over in the first place." 

A Year in Jail

In Gomez's case, police charged him with resisting a public officer and disorderly conduct; they charged Santiago with resisting and assaulting an officer. All of these are crimes they could have committed only after the officers approached the two of them. According to Santiago, the officers tried to link her and Gomez with a loud Memorial Day weekend party that had stretched into the early morning hours that Saturday, a detail not mentioned in the arrest reports or warrants. She and Gomez say they were never at that party, just walking down the street in broad daylight. A neighbor anonymously told the Spanish-language Raleigh newspaper Que Pasa it looked like the officers planned to arrest the pair as soon as they pulled up. "He never did anything to be arrested," the witness said. "They were only walking. To me, there was an element of discrimination."

In an affidavit, Santiago (who is Irish American but kept the surname of her Puerto Rican ex-husband) agreed. "Those officers targeted Francisco because he looks Latino," she wrote. "They got mad that he was just asking for his right to a lawyer and started beating him up."

Wake County jail records show Gomez suffered a bloody wound to his right arm. Santiago says that's because one of the officers jammed Gomez's arm into the concrete sidewalk while twisting his other arm behind his back and kneeling on his ribcage. The Mexican consulate in Raleigh asked the Raleigh Police Department to investigate the officers for brutality and racial profiling, but an internal affairs investigation concluded that they had conducted themselves properly. Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue says the officers arrested Gomez for profanity, verbal abuse, and threats, while they arrested Santiago for attacking one of them. Santiago says Gomez was complaining about previous harassment by other officers and demanding to be left alone; she also admits she tried to pull the officers off him, but her charges didn't stick because the officers didn't show up for court.

Sughrue declines to talk about the officers' actions but says the department's "nonbiased policing" policy prohibits officers from detaining someone based on race, ethnicity, or national origin. A civil rights complaint about the incident filed by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice is pending at the Justice Department. "They never should have hit me or treated me in that manner," Gomez wrote in his statement for the Justice Department. "They were torturing me and abusing me for no reason."

For Gomez, the criminal charges and the true facts of the case were irrelevant; once he was in the Wake County jail, he was subject to an ICE hold. After he spent 18 days there, the prosecutor dropped the disorderly conduct charge and Gomez pleaded no contest to resisting the officers because his criminal defense lawyer (not Simpson) told him he'd be deported anyway and giving in would be the quickest way back to Mexico. He was sentenced to time served, and ICE immediately transferred him to the Alamance County jail, a holding facility an hour east of Raleigh. That jail provides ICE with up to 200 beds a day for $61 each.

From there Gomez went to the 1,900-bed Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia, operated by Correctional Corporations of America, a private prison company that charges ICE $65 a day per inmate. CCA, which built the Lumpkin jail in 2004 and has profited from the immigration crackdown, contributed to the campaigns of the Arizona legislators who sponsored that state's law aimed at rounding up illegal aliens. The company is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which lobbied for the new legislation, according to a 2010 NPR investigation.

Although he has resolved the charges against him in North Carolina, Gomez has been incarcerated in Georgia for nearly a year. He has been through several court hearings, and the slow pace of his prosecution is typical for such complex cases. In 2010 the American Bar Association (ABA) found that the average immigration judge hears more than 100 cases every month, which leaves little time for questions about police misconduct. Calling for reform, the ABA faulted Justice Department lawyers for failing to use prosecutorial discretion and overloading the system with minor cases.

Gomez had no lawyer during his first six months in ICE custody, which is the norm for immigration detainees. In fiscal year 2008, according to the Justice Department, only 16 percent of detained immigrants had legal representation. (The Immigration and Nationality Act gives noncitizens the right to legal counsel as long as they pay for it themselves.) The Migration Policy Institute says the average detainee spends 81 days in jail prior to a deportation order, then another 10 weeks after the order. Those who are eventually deported will have spent an average of six months in detention. 

Simpson said William Cassidy, the immigration judge in Atlanta who is overseeing Gomez's case, has given him extra time to prepare a defense because of his allegations about police misconduct and the injuries he sustained during his arrest. Until Simpson took on the case in December, Gomez had to prepare his own pleadings. "Apparently he was convincing enough that the judge kept giving him more time," Simpson says, "which is actually fairly remarkable."

Simpson's defense emphasizes the circumstances of Gomez's arrest. She says ICE has the burden of proving he is an illegal immigrant, but any evidence it might present could have come only from an unjustified line of questioning by the Raleigh police officers, who have no authority to enforce immigration law. Eventually, she wants a hearing on whether any of that evidence is admissible. Because the rules of evidence are looser in immigration cases than they are in criminal cases, this strategy is iffy.

Cassidy will give Gomez a chance to present his case this summer. At a recent hearing, Simpson says, Cassidy considered her arguments for suppressing the evidence and terminating the removal process. This surprised her, she says, as most immigration judges "really do not want to hear about what the Raleigh P.D. did. For them, the manner in which someone comes into proceedings is completely ancillary to the 'truth' of someone's status or non-status."

Alternatively, she hopes Judge Cassidy will set her client free on bond if she can prove that the Justice Department needs him to investigate his civil rights allegations against the Raleigh police officers. The Mexican consulate has joined that request. Simpson thinks Gomez's alleged beating could be the factor that temporarily gains him legal status in the United States. Special "U" visas, which last up to four years, are available for victims of violent crimes.

"He was the victim of a crime committed by two police officers, and he is therefore potentially eligible for a U visa," Simpson argued in a motion to set Gomez free on bond. "In order to pursue his complaint effectively…Francisco needs to be in Raleigh, North Carolina—rather than detained in Georgia." Pleading for a bond in a written statement to Cassidy, Santiago said she and Simpson were struggling to fight for Gomez from North Carolina while he's incarcerated in Georgia. "If he's detained in Georgia, he won't be able to fight his case," she wrote. "He won't get a chance to prove what really happened."

'They Don't Want to Do Anything'

In the meantime, Gomez is asking for medical treatment for his injuries. When the officers arrested him, he was already nursing a spinal fracture from being hit by a car a few weeks earlier. He says one officer crushed his ribs and the other punched him in the back half a dozen times. He says his first lawyer had to pressure the jail in Raleigh to get the wound on his arm treated.

"It's been nine months now, and I still have a mark on my hand they gave me," Gomez wrote in a March statement to the Justice Department. "They think that I am fine, and this is not true. The truth is that my back hurts since the day they hit me, and the ribs at times also hurt.…I am going to make a report in this detention where I am now already. I made one, but they did not give me more pills for the pain, and I told them that I want an X-ray of my back, and they don't want to do anything for my case here in this jail where I am."

As with legal representation, access to medical care is extremely limited for ICE detainees, especially in giant immigrant-only jails, where the ratio of medical staff to inmates is lower than in ordinary jails. In 2008 The Washington Post documented the spread of tuberculosis and chicken pox, as well as deaths due to untreated heart disease and cancer inside immigration jails. Last year ICE settled a lawsuit in which the American Civil Liberties Union accused the agency of falling below federal jail standards by failing to provide proper medical care at the San Diego Correctional Facility. ICE had denied detainees treatments it deemed "non-emergency," including heart surgeries, cancer biopsies, and medication for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

During the first half of 2008, a quarter of medical personnel jobs in the immigrant detention system were vacant, according a U.S. Division of Immigrant Health Services report cited by The Washington Post. Studies by the ACLU and the Department of Homeland Security itself found the vacancies closer to 40 percent. A report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which earlier this year published a report critical of ICE detention practices, says facilities housing hundreds of detainees often have only one doctor working limited shifts. The Post reported that the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall had a backlog of 2,097 medical appointments in 2008. A December 2006 survey of three immigration detention centers by the Department of Homeland Security found that 41 percent of nonemergency medical requests were not being addressed promptly.

In 2008 representatives of the Georgia ACLU visited the Stewart Detention Center, where Gomez has been held. They met a man whose asthma had gone untreated for two months. He and others had infections and rashes they said they had contracted while in custody there. "This appears to undermine the [ICE] standard which states that 'detainees diagnosed with a communicable disease shall be isolated,'?" the ACLU reported. The ICE Detention Standards Compliance Unit found conditions at Stewart to be deficient in 2007 but said they improved to an "acceptable" level a year later.

From October 2003 to November 2010, 115 immigrants died in ICE custody from various causes, including heart disease, cancer, and suicide. Last year The New York Times told the stories of one immigrant who committed suicide after jailers withheld pain medication for a broken leg, and another man who suffered from untreated and eventually fatal head injuries while officials debated how to avoid paying for his care and whether to send him back to Africa.

Jailers' treatment of immigrant detainees can go beyond neglect. Last August, Human Rights Watch reported on 15 female inmates who had been sexually assaulted or harassed by guards or ICE agents in eight different immigration detention facilities.

'An Honest, Law-Abiding Young Man'

Edith Santiago, a single mother of five, wants her friend to get a fighting chance at freedom. The two met when Gomez was in his early 20s, and she soon adopted him into her home. He had been living with another friend, and Santiago says he is no longer in touch with his family in Mexico. She says Gomez helped her care for her children, her ailing mother, and her baby granddaughter, who has cancer. "He is like a son to me, and it was like seeing my own child get beaten for nothing," Santiago wrote in her affidavit for Judge Cassidy. "I couldn't sleep for about four days after seeing what happened because I kept seeing those officers beat on Francisco."

Santiago's pastor, the Rev. Michael Morris of Raleigh's First Baptist Church, wrote to Judge Cassidy asking for a low bond to free Gomez while he makes his case to the Justice Department. "Francisco is a quiet person who always acts courteously," the pastor said. "He deserves every consideration as an honest, law-abiding young man."

But the way immigration laws are being enforced today doesn't treat immigrants like law-abiding people locked in civil disputes with the federal government. It treats them like criminals, with all the hazards and indignities of life behind bars. 

Jesse James DeConto writes from Durham, North Carolina. An award-winning newspaper reporter, most recently at the Raleigh News and Observer, his work appears regularly in The Christian Century and Prism.

NEXT: Peter Beinart Laments That We're Not Sufficiently Moved by Rep. Weiner's Suffering

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Statists will always think of those from the wrong side of the border as more dangerous than weapons of mass destruction.

    1. You don’t have to be a statist to be a xenophobe, and all statists are not xenophobes.

  2. local cops have been tasked with enforcing civil immigration laws

    Now, be clear, I’m increasingly an “open borders” guy – I have to agree with David E. Gallaher. But ‘local cops enforce immigration law’, but Arizona’s law is “illegal”? Huh?

    I guess I don’t get statist/authoritarian thinking. Which is probably the objective of the statists and authoritarians, as I think about it…

  3. I have a very simple solution for all the problems that illegals face, just don’t enter the country illegally. There, problem solved, lets move on.

    1. Wow all this guy would have needed was a time machine and enough ectoplasm to go back fifteen years and he could have done just that!

      1. No, he could have turned himself in/left the country voluntarily as well. Stop trying to pretend you’re not too stupid to have this discussion.

  4. There is one thing about immigration detention that this article fails to mention, the detainees are basically choosing to be there. If ICE or CBP pick you up, they will always send you home. They only detain you if you fight deporation. And even then you can get out on bond. They only detain people who are viewed as likely not to show up at their court date.

    I am sure these places suck. But they must not suck too bad or the people in them would be saying to hell with fighting deportation and getting on the plane and going home.

    1. “They only detain you if you fight deporation. And even then you can get out on bond. They only detain people who are viewed as likely not to show up at their court date.”

      As long as you understand that they are regularly “viewed as likely not to show” even though DHS/ICE cannot name one single fact that supports that “view.”

      Stay the fuck out of immigration “court.” If you do not have permission to be here, and you are caught, there isn’t a damned thing anything can do to stop that machine.

      1. But the worst thing that can happen is you go back where you came from.

        1. Well, after being held for years.

          1. “Well, after being held for years.”

            AGAIN, because you seem to be illiterate, “They only detain you (for your hyperbolic period of years) if you fight deportation. Read it until you get it, so you don’t post something else stupid and wrong.

    2. What if they pick you up and you’re not actually an illegal immigrant.

      Should you just allow deportation?

      After all, you would never be picked up because the immigration database is out of date or has a mistake in it – cops never make mistakes.

  5. Fuck the federal government up its titanic, tyranntical, Satanically abominable ass.

  6. Don’t worry, the American government also treats legal visitors like criminals as well, so at least one can argue they treat all outsiders badly.

  7. I remember my father complaining back in the early 70’s that the majority of americans growing up in urban rather than rural areas would change our culture and politics for the worse. I was too young then to fully understand what he meant. Now I see what he meant and that he was right.

    The massive influx of people into our culture that have values, ethics, and social norms very different from our own is going to be even worse. There are too many of them for our culture to absorb and many of them dont wish to assimilate anyway.

    Clearly our current immigration policies would have to greatly improve to rise to the level of a cluster-fuck. Still, I have a very difficult time working up sympathy for illegal aliens of any stripe.

    1. Fucking Irish, EYE-TIES, Pollacks and JOOS.

      Go back to the 19th century.

      1. Stop pretending modern problems in any way relate to historical problems, and that they can be compared meaningfully. You’re terrible at it.

  8. Suspected illegal aliens? OK.
    #1. You are either a legal alien or you’re not a legal alien.
    #2. The legal status of an alien is not a philosophical question, it’s a fact.
    #3. If you don’t have a greencard, h1B visa, tourist visa, or any kind of PERMISSION to be in the country, YOU ARE AN ILLEGAL ALIEN.

    If that’s the case, you should face the punishment established by law, maybe you can appeal and perhaps if you’re lucky, you won’t be deported.

    In any case, if I need ID to buy a gun and a passport to visit Mexico, YOU need the same if you’re coming to MY COUNTRY.

    1. If you don’t have a greencard, h1B visa, tourist visa, or any kind of PERMISSION to be in the country, YOU ARE AN ILLEGAL ALIEN.

      I don’t have any of those, do you?

      1. I’m an AMERICAN, I don’t need one of those.

        1. Greg, Stop paying attention to those icky libertarians and come oil up pecs.

        2. I’m an AMERICAN

          Ok, prove it.

          1. Ok, here’s my birth certificate and passport. OH MY GOD WHAT AN ORDEAL.

    2. You, as an American citizen that is, do not need a passport to visit Mexico, you need one to get back into the United States.

      And this is not because of any action on the part of the Mexican government. It is because of bullshit policies by our own.

      1. “You, as an American citizen that is, do not need a passport to visit Mexico”

        However, they do require that you show some form of ID, such as a driver’s license. Your statement is true enough, but let’s not hide all the facts by comparing it to the U.S. regs.

        1. I’ve been to Mexico a number of times and have never been required to show ID except on the US side.

          1. Try entering Mexico from the south.

            1. As an American, it would probably be relatively easy.

          2. You’re lying.

    3. “In any case, if I need ID to buy a gun and a passport to visit Mexico, YOU need the same if you’re coming to MY COUNTRY.”

      Because bureaucracy exists we should have more of it!

      1. Free trade and open borders only works when it applies to everyone. Otherwise what you have is one country taking advantage of another country. It’s like “free education,” I don’t like paying taxes so a bunch of beaners can get bilingual education and pro-Mexican history lessons at my expense at my public schools.

        Yet you people want more beaners in the country so they can continue overcrowding our public schools. This will result in higher property taxes, higher debt, more government expenditures, more overcrowding, etc.

        When will libertarians realize that America is not a charity? We are not the home of the lazy and the land of the freeloader! Our job is not to take care of the needs of every third world parasite.

        We have to enforce our immigration laws! We have to stop the cultural onslaught. This is supposed to be a melting pot, not a taco salad! If you add too many beaners to the plate, they don’t change, they change you.

        1. I don’t understand basic economics (or libertarianism for that matter) so I’m going to accuse libertarians of being for welfare, promote fear of brown people, and add just a hint of cultural nationalism.

          1. “…….promote fear of brown people, and add just a hint of cultural nationalism.”

            Cultural Nationalism – A form of nationalism in which a nation is defined by a shared culture rather than ethnicity.

            Yeah, So? I cant speak for anyone else, but I am a proponent of cultural nationalism. I dont judge people by their color, religion, gender, gender preference etc etc….I judge them by their character.

            I judge cultures the same way. Any given country is a product of the culture/cultures that live there. The vast majority of cultures have produced shit-holes for countries. People who like the country we have produced should come here and be a part of it. I dont want people to come here and try to change our country into the one they came from. We will end up a shit-hole like all the rest.

            I can’t speak for anyone else, but I suppose

            1. “Cultural Nationalism – A form of nationalism in which a nation is defined by a shared culture rather than ethnicity.”

              I guess I’d have to ask you to define American culture.

              1. As far as I am aware, The United States is the only country founded on ideas and not language, geography, or ethnicity. Perhaps a good way to define the nebulous concept of ‘american culture’ would be to examine those ideas and the concepts behind them; to recognize the attitudes and norms that produced them/ that they produced.

                Generally speaking,and in no particular order, popular reverence for private property rights, acceptance of personal responsibility, equality of all persons before the law, accountability of government to the governed, limiting the power of government, the right of self defense, freedom of speech and conscience etc etc…….

                I will be the first to admit that we have had a very hard time living up to these ideas, but at least we have them. I have found that outside of this country any or all of those ideas are laughed at or openly despised.

                1. Ooops! I forgot the concept of inalienable rights……
                  I am on my second mohito and shooting from the hip.

                2. A decent response.

                  I would also add that a general openness to foreigners both in terms of ideas and immigration has been important to economic growth.

                  When my wife (who is an immigrant) and I talk about why the US has been so successful economically I say all you have to do is look around. We drive foreign cars, love foreign foods, and (despite recent attempts to legislate away illegal immigration) are generally very good at accepting and integrating immigrants (both legal and illegal).

                  You mentioned a number of important rights, but the right to free association and (GASP!) free movement are also very important.

                  1. Agreed……
                    Acceptance and integration are not limited to immigrants in our country. We incorporate everything from others that we find likeable…food, language, dress, etc.
                    To see why we do this Bill Bryson’s little gem ‘The Mother tongue” is a good read as is Benson Bobrick’s ‘Wide as the Waters’.
                    Many other countries legislate language norms,dress style, even food; we do not and find that sort of thing odious.
                    On a personal note, I love middle eastern food and have become quite good at cooking it. I have no problem with middle eastern food becoming widely accepted in our country, or for middle easterners to immigrate here if they subscribe to the above mentioned ideas.
                    In other words, come to america and be a part of it, contribute something good to it and we will welcome you with open arms, but leave the stone-age barbaric BS behind.

                    1. Falafel FTW!

        2. Free trade and open borders only works when it applies to everyone.

          Please explain Hong Kong.

          1. I’m sure Hong Kong enforces their immigration laws. In fact, now that they’re under Chinese control you need permission from the Chinese government to get in. After all, it’s a tiny group of islands and they’re not building 300 story skyscrapers.

            1. Please explain Hong Kong from 1950 to 1997.

              After all, it was a tiny group of islands and they were building 100 story skyscrapers.

        3. I think you don’t live up to your good name, sir! Damn social conservatives. The people i’m worried about aren’t foreigners from the other side of the border, it’s the agencies that claim to act “for my own good” and “protect” me!

        4. Or we could get really sensible and eliminate the minimum wage. Then the competitive playing field for jobs that illegals fill would be equal for “Americans” also.

  9. Sucks to be them.

  10. “In practice, however, many noncriminal aliens, whose lawbreaking is limited to the civil offense of living in the United States without permission, get swept up in this dragnet. ”

    This logic brought to you be Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

    “As a result, they are treated like criminals, but without the legal protections that criminal defendants enjoy.”

    How corrupt to actually treat a law-breaker as a criminal! What is this country coming to!!

    1. It’s actually NOT a criminal offense to be in the country illegally.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDo-ZVK4dc0

      “How corrupt to actually treat a law-breaker as a criminal!

      Without the legal protections that criminal defendants enjoy, it actually is pretty corrupt.

      1. Hey problem solved then…and here I thought we were a sovereign nation with our own laws. From now on, Illegal entry into the country is considered legal.

        I’m sorry, but I don’t see how detaining someone for breaking the rules of entry into the U.S. is somehow corrupt.

        1. It isn’t — but removing the rigorous standards of prosecution based on the type of transgression is unacceptable.

        2. “From now on, Illegal entry into the country is considered legal.”

          As long as people submit to a background check and are checked for communicable diseases, what’s the problem? That’s how it was done for the first 100+ years of our country’s history.

          “I’m sorry, but I don’t see how detaining someone for breaking the rules of entry into the U.S. is somehow corrupt.”

          See RPA’s response.

          1. “That’s how it was done for the first 100+ years of our country’s history.”

            You’re right, nothing has changed in those last 100 years either. There’s plenty of jobs and money for everyone!!!!

            I suppose you wouldn’t have a problem with me taking up residence in your home either?

            This just in, illegal entry into the country still illegal.

            1. “You’re right, nothing has changed in those last 100 years either. There’s plenty of jobs and money for everyone!!!!”

              Ah yes, the ol’ ‘they’ll take r jubs’ argument. This argument is no different than the left’s understanding of economics in terms of a limited pie that must be divided up.

              “I suppose you wouldn’t have a problem with me taking up residence in your home either?”

              You’re full of shit if you think the country is analogous to a PRIVATE home. This idea is closer to what you might find in N. Korea, or any other country where the collective is more important than individual property rights.

              A more appropriate analogy would be to that of a neighborhood. What you do in your house is none of my business, and who I decide to invite over is certainly none of your damn business.

              “This just in, illegal entry into the country still illegal.”

              …and finally you fall back into the authoritarian argument. The law is the law. Might makes right. Whatever the mob wants, the mob shall have. Tell me, where would you have stood on the Fugitive Slave Act? Should Northerners have sent escaped slaves back to the south. After all, the law is the law, right?

              Before you accuse me comparing enforcement of immigration laws to slavery, be sure not to miss the point that merely crying THE LAW IS THE LAW is not an argument, but an appeal to authority and quite contrary to freedom and liberty.

              1. “You’re full of shit if you think the country is analogous to a PRIVATE home. ”

                As are you if think this country is free to whomever chooses to enter it for whatever reason. Given the state of our ecomony and the misguided application of welfare I just assume work with what we have for now. thanks.

                1. “As are you if think this country is free to whomever chooses to enter it for whatever reason.”

                  That’s actually NOT what I believe. As I stated above. Those wishing to enter should be subject to a simple background check (Something that already takes place for those applying for immigration visas) and medical exams (Again, already taking place).

                  “Given the state of our ecomony and the misguided application of welfare I just assume work with what we have for now. thanks.”

                  Fantastic! Another conservative economic illiterate afraid of the immigrants taking our welfare and our jobs.

                  I wonder if you could provide any data regarding whether or not illegal immigrants cost more than the economic benefits they provide?

                  The welfare state isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but neither are illegal immigrants for that matter. thanks.

              2. “A more appropriate analogy would be to that of a neighborhood. ”

                Fine, is it fair for a neighborhood to have limited access to a neighborhood pool? Or should that be free for everyone within the city and/or county you reside?

                1. “Fine, is it fair for a neighborhood to have limited access to a neighborhood pool?”

                  Absolutely. A group of private citizens pooling their resources together to purchase land and build a pool can and should be able to decide who can use it.

                  Now if you’re arguing that PUBLIC property (the roads to get into that neighborhood) is somehow PRIVATE property your analogy would again FAIL.

                  1. So the United States, according to you, is considered public property to all peoples? So we are not a sovereign nation in your eyes. Ridiculous.

                    1. “So the United States, according to you, is considered public property to all peoples?”

                      You can attempt to put words in my mouth all you want. The fact of the matter is who I associate with, particularly on my own private property, is none of your damn business.

                      “So we are not a sovereign nation in your eyes.”

                      Those who founded this nation must not have agreed with your idea of ‘sovereignty’. Nothing is written in the constitution giving the government power to regulate the free movement of people across the boarders and the first laws didn’t exist until well over 100 years after the country’s founding and were 100% racist in nature. THEY were, in fact, ‘Ridiculous’.

                      http://www.umass.edu/complit/aclanet/USMigrat.html

      2. Where did you get that? Immigration law says otherwise.

        In fact, it’s a CRIME to overstay your visa. I know, that’s the easiest way for an alien to come into the country. You come as a tourist and then disappear (until they catch you, that is.).

        1. So… IOW you didn’t click on the link. Fair enough, as few people here probably ever click on your link.

  11. Does it bother you, Greg, that you’re required by law to prove to the federal government of the United States that you’re not a criminal before you buy guns, or that you must ask permission from your servants to carry them?

  12. You know, I can’t help wondering how splendorous and extraordinary our major cities and towns could look or feel if we one day embraced free-market capitalism and restored the rule of constitutional liberty by law.

    1. Probably something like (GASP!) Hong Kong. Oh the horror!

      1. I’ll throw out a little slice of honestly here and admit that I don’t know much about Hong Kong. Rumor has it that it’s a crony capitalist/state capitalist mostly-shithole, but I could be wrong in believing that. Got a summary for me? 😛

        1. If you look at any study regarding ‘economic freedom’ you’ll find Hong Kong ranks #1.

          See page 7 – http://www.freetheworld.com/20…..0_BOOK.pdf

          Milton Friedman was a fan – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqh0zXSd4vc

          1. Meh. Reason won’t let you post more than 2 links (Damn authoritarian!)

            Here’s another one.

            GDP Growth – http://www.google.com/publicda…..l=en&dl=en

            1. Economic freedom is not the same thing as social freedom.

              But feel free to conflate and confuse the two.

              1. Uh… the question was regarding HK’s economic system, but feel free to look dumb all you want.

        2. wikiwikiwiki

          As one of the world’s leading international financial centres, Hong Kong has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade, and the currency, Hong Kong dollar, is the ninth most traded currency in the world. Hong Kong was once described by Milton Friedman as the world’s greatest experiment in laissez-faire capitalism. It maintains a highly developed capitalist economy, ranked the freest in the world by the Index of Economic Freedom for 15 consecutive years. It is an important centre for international finance and trade, with one of the greatest concentrations of corporate headquarters in the Asia-Pacific region, and is known as one of the Four Asian Tigers for its high growth rates and rapid development from the 1960s to the 1990s. Between 1961 and 1997 Hong Kong’s gross domestic product grew 180 times while per-capita GDP increased 87 times over…

          The Hong Kong Government has traditionally played a mostly passive role in the economy, with little by way of industrial policy and almost no import or export controls. Market forces and the private sector were allowed to determine practical development. Under the official policy of “positive non-interventionism”, Hong Kong is often cited as an example of laissez-faire capitalism. Following the Second World War, Hong Kong industrialised rapidly as a manufacturing centre driven by exports, and then underwent a rapid transition to a service-based economy in the 1980s.

          1. What is Hong Kong’s immigration policy, and the level of welfare? How do they treat unlawful immigrants? My guess is that they havetight border control.

            1. Today, yes.

              Back in the 50’s and 60’s, however, Hong Kong was a haven for illegal immigration from Communist China. And those tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free fueled the phenomenal growth that saw Hong Kong rise from an impoverished rock to exceed the GDP per capita of their colonial masters.

              There are few places on earth more densely populated. There are few places on earth more wealthy. There is nothing whatsoever contradictory in those two statements.

        3. Like most places, hong Kong is not immune from crony capitalism and/or corruption. And its authoritarian Chinese masters probably tolerate less dissent than its former authoritarian British masters. But absent actual political activism that threatens some functionary’s sinecure you’ll be left pretty much alone.

          The big deal is that from all reports it is incredibly easy to start a business and there is hardly any interference with where or how you conduct that business and you won’t get taxed to death on any profits you manage to make.

  13. I agree that anyone in custody should be treated humanely, and of course police abuse is disgusting. However, I am tired of these illegal (let’s face it) MEXICAN immigrants turning our communities into 3 world shit holes like the ones they left. An American child is forced into class rooms with children who speak no English, who’s parents are ignorant, uneducated peasants…how is that fair to the American child? How does that help them get a decent education? And of course, we have hospitals closing because they can not afford to keep treating the illegals for free.
    I agree with most of the Libertarian philosophy, but open borders is bullshit.

    1. Well libertarian philosophy abhors public schools and public health care, so what’s the problem?

      1. Well, because we don’t live in a Libertarian Utopia. Public schools are the reality we live with, as well as public hospitals.
        And even if that were not the case, what about your property values after they turn the neighborhood into a slum? And what about the effect on wages that cheap labor has? I personally don’t want to work for ten dollars an hr.

        1. “Public schools are the reality we live with, as well as public hospitals.”

          …as well as illegal immigration.

    2. I’m with you. Not all libertarians are of the “open borders” variety.

  14. Are you missing the point, he is here illegally! Round them up and ship them out, US rights are for US citizens period.

    1. Round up 15-20 million people? Good luck with that.

      Also, what are these ‘US rights’ you speak of?

    2. round up 15 to 20 mill people? Easy! take the numbers from this column, we are looking at rounding up 10 percent per yr….that’s ten years they are all back in mexico. Or should we just give up because its too hard? fucking pussy

      1. “round up 15 to 20 mill people? Easy! take the numbers from this column, we are looking at rounding up 10 percent per yr….that’s ten years they are all back in mexico.”

        That’s if no more cross the border in the process.

        “Or should we just give up because its too hard? fucking pussy”

        I think you have about as good a chance of ending the welfare state that you have of ‘ending’ illegal immigration.

        The ability to forcibly evict up to 20 million people cannot be done w/o seriously stepping on the rights of law abiding American citizens.

  15. sorry for the hostility, but I am sick and tired of living in “Little Mexico”

    1. No worries. I’ve said worse to people who fear teh immigrants.

      I live in AZ.

  16. i like the middle to upper class people from mexico who come here. they are educated, have good manners and are respectable.

    That said why and the hell should we allow millions of “i will write your name on a grain of rice” labor in this country? WHY???

    Ever seen the ones who pass out escort cards on the vegas strip? what a waste of money and resources to sneak them in, pay for their free medical, them to litter our land so they can pass hooker cards.

    my goodness people have become lazy in this country to allow this to happen.

    1. Most of those are problems solely because we live under an oppressive welfare state. Remove the nanny, remove the problem.

  17. Is the ACLU now writing for Reason????

    1. This is a libertarian web site. Perhaps you’d feel more comfortable over at Red State.

      Oh and… barf.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.