Sunday, January 10, 2010

Midnight Express, Coming to a Private Prison Near You


"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
- "The New Colossus"

Here's something else Emma Lazarus never mentioned: At least 107 illegals have died in American custody since October of 2003. That is a fact. If you didn't know that, there's a good reason for it: The New York Times published an article this morning and the title offers a clue as to why we didn't: Officials Hid Truth of Immigrant Deaths in Jail.

It's a horror story that's like Walter Reed meets Midnight Express in which detained immigrants were denied medical care to save costs and were allowed to commit suicide. It's a web of deceit and callousness that involves not just the federal prison system but Corrections Corporation of America as well, one of the worst offenders of detainee rights. And the worst part is, many of the people who work for USCIS are not only left over from the Bush administration but, making a mockery of our president's pledge to overhaul the detainee system, have been given the blessing of the Obama administration. The truth was covered up in Blackberry messages and other documents recently obtained by the ACLU through the FOIA.

What used to be known as INS is able to police itself. Despite the laughably named Office of Professional Responsibility, they don't have an Inspector General or apparently any apparatus whatsoever in place to preserve transparency and the rule of law. So who's the Inspector General of the parent bureaucracy that's supposed to oversee the USCIS?


That would be Dick Skinner of DHS. Skinner is a holdover from the Bush years, being made Inspector General just one month before Katrina slammed into the Gulf coast. (Skinner, for some reason, is also on the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the one that oversees the TARP disbursements, which we all know is going swimmingly well with no controversy or gaps in our knowledge whatsoever.)

Under Skinner's eagle eye, the DHS has done a complete 180: After Katrina hit New Orleans, we were hearing whining from the government that DHS was equipped to confront the threat of terrorism and not natural disasters (prompting Keith Olbermann to note that Homeland Security couldn't handle a terrorist known as standing water). But four years later, in the wake of the Christmas Day attack in Detroit, we're reading in Inspector General Skinner's report that DHS is now so focused on natural disasters it's no longer able to confront the ugly specter of terrorism and is, once again, unable to marshal the resources and coordinate the efforts of the 22 agencies under its umbrella.

One of those 22 agencies is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, formerly INS, the focus of this article. In fact (and I hate to quote these bozos but only right wing blogs had seized on this), this was the opening paragraph of the CNS report:
The Homeland Security Department’s National Operations Center (NOC) is “unable” to do its job of ensuring coordination among the 22 federal agencies that make up the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and focuses too much on disaster management rather than terrorism prevention, according to its own inspector general.

Add to the mix that the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security is none other than Jane Holl Lute, wife of cardboard cutout "war czar" Gen. Doug Lute. Yet another holdover from the Bush administration is Nina Dozoretz, who is described by Nina Bernstein thusly:
a longtime manager in the agency’s Division of Immigration Health Services who had won an award for cutting detainee health care costs. Later she was vice president of the Nakamoto Group, a company hired by the Bush administration to monitor detention. The Obama administration recently rehired her to lead its overhaul of detainee health care.

Calls to her office resulted in the usual wild goose chase to the public affairs office. Predictably, this resulted in the usual "no comment" from Michael Gilhooly, the spokesman for the public affairs office for the NE. Gilhooly is revealed as being one of the main obstructions standing between USCIS and media scrutiny.

The Times article doesn't go on to state how several detainees wound up dying of head injuries and we can only imagine that whatever the paper got from the federal government was heavily redacted. But we know that a massive and longterm coverup has been taking place regarding how inhumanely these people had been treated in the land of the free, the home of the brave.

Considering how horribly we've treated the Iraqis that we were supposed to be liberating from torture and oppression, does anyone have any illusions that our federal and private prison systems would treat undocumented workers with any more humanity? (Watch the NY Times video accompanying the article. You will note Boubacar Bah, one of the 107 fatalities of our immigration detention system, was moaning repeatedly, “Help, they are killing me!”)

Yes, we're no better than Turkey in how brutally we treat non-citizens. If they get sick, we leave them to die in solitary without calling for an ambulance. We'll deport them to avoid publicity. We'll retroactively activate their work visas so they can get on Medicare. We hand out awards to those who deny the most health care. We hire incompetent private corporations to give bad advice on obtaining a green card then arrest the emigres when they re-enter the US (as in Mr. Bah's case). And the Obama administration gives them job security.

And only God knows how many of these poor powerless people died at the hands of the Hamidous of our federal and private prison systems.

If you have a shred of decency in you, you'd call Janet Napolitano and demand she launch an IG report getting to the bottom of this travesty. Here's DHS's contact info. For whatever it's worth, here's the page for the USCIS's ombudsman's office, although it's obvious these illegal immigrants don't have an ombudsman looking out for their rights.

Then when you do that, we can get to work on Carswell, Susan Lindauer's old haunts, which boasts of some horrific federal abuse and neglect of its own.

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