In June of 2014, the ACLU and the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School filed complaints with the Department of Homeland Security. And the complaints documented the cases of 116 unaccompanied children, ranging in age from 5 years old to 17. According to these organizations, a quarter of the children said they were physically or sexually abused. They said they’d been placed in so-called stress positions and were at times subjected to beatings by Customs officials. More than half of the kids reported receiving death threats from U.S. government agents.

— Reporter Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept podcast, Intercepted, May 30, 2018

 

S immigration agencies have been committing crimes against humanity for decades. The Obama administration raised immigration ruthlessness to a new level, earning the president the derogatory title of deporter-in-chief, balanced by no redeeming effort to resolve an issue more rooted in hate than harm. Now the Trump administration has taken official viciousness and stupidity to a whole new level, prompting Human Rights Watch to object strenuously to US immigration policy and practice:

Misdemeanor illegal entry (for entering the US without authorization) and felony illegal reentry (for reentering the US after deportation) have been crimes since the early 20th century. But prosecutions were limited to immigrants with serious prior criminal histories or repeat offenders. In 2005, Operation Streamline was introduced in Del Rio, Texas, permitting rapid-fire mass prosecutions of migrants.

The Trump administration’s policy is the first to target parents traveling with children for prosecution and to couple criminal prosecution of asylum seekers with policy changes intended to restrict eligibility for asylum to those who enter the US illegally. Penalizing asylum seekers for entering without authorization is a violation of international refugee law. [emphasis added]

How inhumane can the US government get before a majority of the American people begin to care? Why should Americans tolerate law-breaking that should be an impeachable offense? How long before a majority of us have zero tolerance for official cruelty, abuse, and lawlessness?

Abusive treatment of a woman about to give birth should shock anyone’s conscience, but it hasn’t, apparently. For now, ICE (the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) can get away with almost any atrocity.

On the morning of August 15, in San Bernardino, California, Joel Arrona-Lara, 36, was driving his nine-months-pregnant wife to the hospital to give birth by C-section. Two ICE SUVs surrounded their car at a convenience store, for no apparent reason except racial profiling. The ICE agents did not know who they were stopping and first asked the wife, Maria del Carmen Venegas, for her ID, which she had. She and her husband have lived in the US for 12 years and have four other children, three of whom are citizens.

When the ICE agents turned to the husband, the driver, for identification, he didn’t have it with him, having left hurriedly for the hospital. He had his ID at home, a few blocks away. His wife pleaded with the ICE agents to let him get his ID. The ICE agents didn’t care enough to check it out. Instead they handcuffed Joel Arrona-Lara and took him into custody. They searched the car, finding nothing amiss. With two vehicles available, the ICE agents could easily have escorted the wife to the hospital. They didn’t. They left her alone to drive herself, which she managed to do. The baby was later born safely.

The ICE agents still have no reason for arresting Joel Arrona-Lara other than his not having proper ID on his person. The surveillance camera video of this arrest went viral online and was picked up by media. On Friday, ICE officials claimed Joel Arrona-Lara had been arrested for “illegally residing in the United States,” an assertion patently false, since he was arrested before ICE knew who he was. According to ICE’s Friday statement, ICE considered Joel Arrona-Lara someone “who poses a threat to national security, public safety and border security.”

On Saturday, under media scrutiny, ICE officials issued another probably false claim, that Joel Arrona-Lara was arrested for an outstanding homicide warrant in Mexico. This not only fails to persuade for its belated timing, as well as ICE not knowing who he was when they arrested him, but there’s no evidence yet that such a warrant even exists. Joel Arrona-Lara said he knows of no warrant, his attorney has seen no warrant. The Mexican consulate has said it has no warrant. Maria del Carmen Venegas, 32, says her husband has never had trouble with the law, not even a traffic ticket. She said his brother had done jail time in Mexico, maybe that was the source of confusion.

(Elsewhere, in fake news, Tucker Carlson of Fox News lied on Monday about the homicide warrant, claiming other media coverage omitted it. They did omit it for awhile, but only until ICE changed its story and added the alleged warrant. To be fair to Tucker Carlson, maybe he didn’t lie, maybe he’s just incompetent. He’s right about the story being propaganda, but it’s ICE propaganda. Over on Fox & Friends, the headline was “Media Slams ICE Over Illegal Immigrant Arrest” with nice ambiguity, while misrepresenting the facts and trying to justify this arrest because some other unrelated person was killed in a head-on car crash with an illegal immigrant. This message was delivered by a well-programmed “angel mom” who said that “there’s an American victim for every illegal alien criminal who’s in our country.” Really? Twelve million victims? Almost all going unreported? Now, THAT’s propaganda.)

The fact remains that ICE arrested someone before they knew who he was, they didn’t explain why they were arresting him, and then they changed their story about why he was arrested. That is fundamentally corrupt. ICE has been an invitation to corruption since it was created, since it is not accountable to the US Justice Department but to the Department of Homeland Security which was created to run both sides of the law to protect us from “terrorists.”

The legally dubious arrest is bad enough, and common enough for ICE, but leaving a nine-months-pregnant woman to fend for herself by the side of the road is a new cruelty for ICE. “ICE acted in total disregard for the health and wellbeing of the mother,” said attorney Emilio Amaya Garcia.

To ICE’s credit, perhaps, the ICE agents did not take the mother and unborn child into custody, even though the mother is also undocumented. ICE can always go after the mother later and do untold damage to this harmless, self-supporting family. Meanwhile, ICE can take pride in having created a situation in which an American-born child may never get to meet his father.

That seems unlikely, according to Russell Jauregui, staff attorney for the San Bernardino Community Service Center, who represents Joel Arrona-Lara, currently being held in the Theo Lacy detention center:

He does have a right to a bond hearing before an immigration judge in immigration court. He does have the right to counsel. We’re going to represent him pro bono. He does have the right to pursue a bond hearing to see, determine if he can be released. We’re hoping that he can, given his length of time here in the United States and the fact that he does have three U.S. citizen children. And then, if he is, hopefully, released on bond, then his case will continue with the immigration courts, where he’ll be pursuing his, hopefully, relief during a removal hearing before an immigration judge, where he’ll have to prove that, you know, his U.S. citizen kids will suffer exceptional and extreme and unusual hardships without him if he’s removed…. And this process could take one or two years.

Politicians of both major parties have demagogued the immigration issue for decades, numbing the public to the unlawful and inhumane treatment of a vast, undefined victim class that includes citizens and non-citizens alike. Even more horrific abuses of immigrant children under the Trump administration have finally sparked some outrage, but nowhere near enough to change the police-state practices of ICE. Sadistic, perverted, police-state abuses of children by American border police that flourished during the Obama administration, whose foreign policy drove millions of people to seek asylum from their American-sponsored Central American police states. Under Trump, it’s all the same only worse. Now the US policy is to take children hostage – and then abuse them and lose track of them. As far as immigrants go (“They’re not people – these are animals”), President Trump is betting there’s to limit to what atrocities Americans will tolerate as long as his demonized victims are non-white. So far, he’s winning that bet.

 

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