Sunday, April 15, 2007

One problem with local immigration enforcement.

One of the more ominous results of the current lack of leadership coming from Washington regarding immigration reform has been the growing numbers of states, and municipalities that have taken it upon themselves to usurp federal powers and jurisdiction regarding immigration matters. While those in Washington jockey for political advantage rather than doing the real work of enacting meaningful reform, the feverish rhetoric and shrill voices of those hoping to push an agenda based solely upon punitive measures has grown louder.

This situation has created conditions that have led some to believe that local governments should start doing "the job the federal government won't."

But this transference of power is already beginning to show signs of the inevitable abuses and parochial prejudices that are bound to occur when too much power is transferred to the local level. There are good reasons why the Founding Fathers assured that certain powers should remain in the exclusive realm of the federal government.

This past week provided two glaring examples of exactly why we don't want Barney Fife enforcing US immigration law.

Authorities in South Georgia forced a young Canadian tourist to strip naked, shower and spend the night in jail last weekend for minor traffic violations. This, while they confirmed her immigration status…in spite of the fact that they had no real authority to do so.

Carleton University student Cheryl Kuehn is outraged about the way she was treated by police in the state of Georgia. She says she was strip-searched and locked up for 12 hours, all for running a stop sign and speeding.

Kuehn, 23, who has just completed her master's in social work, was traveling to Florida with her husband, brother-in-law and a friend.

They had just pulled out of a restaurant parking lot along the I-95 in New Brunswick, Georgia, when Kuehn was pulled over for speeding and failing to stop at a stop sign.

When the officers learned Kuehn was a Canadian, they decided to take her into custody until she could post bail and until they could confirm with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency that she was legally allowed to be in the country.


When she arrived at the detention centre, Kuehn was fingerprinted and ordered to strip and shower.

"They wanted me to shower and I kept trying to avoid it because I was really scared and I don't like getting undressed in front of people. But eventually, it was inevitable and I had to go and have a shower in front of someone and get this lice treatment put all over me and -- it was very humiliating,"

Kuehn was told to put on a navy blue jail outfit and sent to sleep in a cell with two other women while other inmates jeered and leered at her from adjoining cells.

"They were trying to intimidate me. And it worked," she says.

Kuehn says she was never given a proper explanation about what was happening to her and says she still doesn't quite understand why she had to endure what she did.

Ontario woman angry over Georgia strip-search, CTV

She waited several hours in a freezing common holding room until she was moved to a shared cell, where she was greeted with jeers and stares from inmates banging on the walls of surrounding cells, she said.

“When I went in there, it was the scariest thing ever,” she said.

Paranoid, she said she laid awake the entire night until her release.

Even though Kuehn had a valid passport, and her husband, Scott, gathered the $222 US to post a bond for her release within three hours of her arrest, Kuehn was told she couldn’t be set free until officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency conducted an immigration check to ensure she was legally in the country.

But Kuehn was not charged with either offence, and the investigation has already revealed that the jail received the information needed for her release by about 7:30 p.m. — long before she was released the following day at around 5 a.m.
Carleton student spends 'terrifying' night in Georgia jail for minor traffic offence , The Charlatan

The treatment of Cheryl Kuehn, a graduate student from Ottawa, has sparked outrage in Canada and investigations in Georgia. And Friday, immigrant advocates said it raises new questions about how local authorities are interpreting Georgia's sweeping new immigration law.


A Glynn County Jail official initially told the Ottawa Citizen that the immigration review was done in response to SB 529, a wide-ranging immigration law signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue a year ago. But the law isn't set to take effect until July. And it only requires authorities to check the immigration status of foreign nationals jailed for a felony or drunken driving

Immigration law cited as Canadian jailed over minor traffic violations , Atlanta Journal Constitution

Of course state officials have called for a full investigation and eventually the whole affair will be chalked up to "a bad apple", or "a lack of training and communications," or any one of a myriad of excuses usually given when civil or human right are violated.

But, while blame for the incident must be taken be the officers who detained Kuehn, the real fault lies in the fact that these officers were given the authority, whether real or perceived, to enforce US immigration laws that they obviously had no understanding of.

While Ms. Kuehn's case appears to have no obvious racial motivations behind it, the same can't be said for an incident that occurred last week in Maine where an unpaid $6 bill at a local gas station brought out the police, local sheriff, state troopers, drug –sniffing dogs, and eventually immigration officials.

What kind of criminals could have warranted such a response? Drug dealers? Escaped felons? Murders? Rapists? Child molesters?

Nope… Just three Latinos from the Bronx with a lack of funds and an expired plate on their car. Unfortunately for one passenger, his friend's lack of monetary foresight will cost him his freedom and result in a flight back to Honduras.

PITTSFIELD -- A Honduran man faces deportation and two men were left without a vehicle following an unpaid gasoline bill Tuesday afternoon.

A man who identified himself as Franklin Barcelona, 24, of Bronx, N.Y., was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Pittsfield police station on suspicion of being in the United States illegally, according to Officer Michael Cote of the Pittsfield Police. Franklin was taken to Bangor for an extradition hearing, Cote said.

Avel Caballero, 23, of Bronx, N.Y., the driver of the vehicle in which Barcelona was a passenger, was issued a summons on a charge of attaching a false license plate to his vehicle, Cote said.

A third man in the vehicle, Rudy Gutierrezlino, 35, of Lubec, was not charged.

A manager at Robinson Mobile Mart on Somerset Avenue called police shortly before 3 p. m. Tuesday when the men said they did not have enough money to pay for $6 in gasoline, Cote said.

Gutierrezlino initially offered to take a summons to go to court to pay the gasoline bill, Cote said.

"He was quite agreeable," Cote said.

When Cote inspected the green Jeep Cherokee Caballero was driving, Cote said, he observed Barcelona slumped over in an attempt to hide in the back seat of the Jeep.

The officer also discovered the temporary dealer license plates had expired in 2002.


Deputy Wilfred Dodge of the Somerset County Sheriff's Department and Sgt. Timothy Roussin of the Pittsfield police assisted Cote in questioning the three men outside the Mobil station. State Police responded with a drug sniffing dog but found no evidence of illegal substances, Cote said.

Police believe Caballero is a U.S. born citizen, Cote said.


Caballero could have faced a slew of other charges, Cote said.

"I didn't feel, with their cooperation, any other charges were necessary," he said. "These guys were very cooperative, as best they could be."

Unpaid gas bill reveals immigration violation , The Morning Sentinel

Now I won't get into whether or not Mr. Barcelona had the "right" to be in this country. Or whether his apprehension is a just "punishment" for his being here without proper documentation.

But I will argue that the ends in this case surely don't justify the means.

I personally have a long history with the kinds of businesses that deal with the kind of "theft of services" infractions that initiated this whole case.

As a kid I worked in a gas station and at one point as an adult, a restaurant. On more than one occasion I've witnessed that classic moment where the waiter brings back a customer's credit card to say, "I'm sorry sir, but there seems to be a problem," only to have the customer realize that they didn't bring any cash. Or a person fills their tank to find out that they left their wallet home. And unlike what you might have seen on I Love Lucy, the unpaid bill does not result in being whisked into the kitchen to a huge pile of dirty dishes just waiting to be washed by vagrant patrons.

And it most certainly doesn't end with every law enforcement agent within a ten-mile radius converging on the premises.

Usually a plan is worked out whereby restitution can be made. Either one person stays behind while another gets some cash. Or some item such as a driver's license, jewelry, or some other item of value is left behind as collateral until the patron returns. Even on the rarest of rare occasions where law enforcement might be called (usually reserved only for blithering drunks, or the blatantly belligerent), a compromise is always worked out…the cops just don't need the extra paperwork.

Except of course if you're in Maine and your name is Barcelona, Caballero, or Gutierrezlino.

In that case, the local authorities are immediately called, and even after expressing your willingness to accept a summons and pay restitution in court, the drug-sniffing dogs are brought in for good measure. Because even though by the police's own admission, you've been "quite agreeable" and "very cooperative," everybody knows that three Latinos in a car from the Bronx with a bad plate can mean only one thing….drug dealers.

I'm sorry, but if it were three white guys named Smith, Jones, and Johnson, on a moose hunting trip or some such, who told that gas station attendant they were short $6, I find it hard to believe it would have ended with drug-sniffing dogs and State Troopers…..Experience tells me so.

But I digress.

Both these cases have one thing in common. Local law enforcement overstepping their authority or misusing it.

Herein lies the problem with granting broader powers to local law enforcement agencies. They simply are not equipped or trained to do the job of the federal government and are more prone to abusing their power. That appears to clearly be the case with Ms. Kuehn, and while the Maine case did end with the arrest of one undocumented immigrant, it was done through racial profiling and haphazard investigation. Certainly neither of these cases demonstrate any effective means of enforcing immigration laws or curtailing undocumented immigration.

If we must have our local authorities degrading and detaining Canadian tourists for traffic violations or sicking the drug-dogs on every carload of Latinos with an expired plate or registration in order to "secure our borders' something is very wrong here.

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1 comment:

kyledeb said...

Really good post Duke,

I hope the higher ups on DailyKos appreciate it.

Was just wondering if you had read this report. Definitely supports the trend your speaking of.