Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Guy Wanted To Sing The Star Spangled Banner In Spanish. Isn't That A Deportable Offense?

We thought Pat Buchanan (Motto: America for Americans) would favor us with some of his reasoned discourse on the current immigration debate sooner or later. After all, having been a leading spokesperson for compassionate conservatism, and a member of the big tent party, he is the natural go to guy if one is looking for objective analysis and rational policy propositions. Well, for those of you who are of European descent that is. White European descent.

But even intellectual bright lights like Mr. Buchanan can be overtaken by events, particularly when we have a government as flexible and attuned to world events as ours is. Apologies to Mr. Buchanan, but it is no longer enough to keep brown people from becoming citizens, we now take brown citizens and throw them out.

Duarnis Perez became an American citizen when he was 15, but he didn't find out until after he had been deported and then jailed for trying to get back into the country. "Well, with a name like 'Perez' no one thought to ask him," said an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson. "Hey, mistakes happen. What are we, the Department of Homeland Security? OK, bad example."

He was facing his second deportation hearing when he learned he was already a U.S. citizen. Still, federal prosecutors fought to keep him in custody. "The guy was obviously up to something," said an aide to the chief prosecutor. "Why'd we kick him out in the first place? Because he was an illegal alien, that's why....Wait...OK, let me get back to you on that."

"In effect, the government is arguing that an innocent man who was wrongly convicted should not be released from the custody of the United States," U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn wrote. "Makes sense to me," said a spokesperson for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

It was not clear why Perez's status wasn't discovered when he first faced deportation. Messages left over three days seeking comment on the case from Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington were not returned. "Legal, illegal, there's so many Hispanics coming through here we can't keep them all straight," said an unnamed source in the ICE office. "Have you read Buchanan's book? If we can knock a couple off the voting roles here and there, then that's a score for the white guy."

A spokesman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said the government has no practical way to inform people of their citizenship in such cases because of the complexities involved. "Hey, this is the Citizenship and Immigration Service," said Chris Bently. "If you don't know you're a citizen, how the heck would we know?"

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Lord, who prosecuted Perez, argued Perez was at fault for not knowing his status. "We really get tired of all these people expecting the government to know stuff," she said. "What are we, the NSA?"

Estelle McKee with the University of Wisconsin Law School said the responsibility is shared. "The immigration service has to prove someone is removable. It's their job," she said. "It's remarkable to go through an entire removal process and not know the person is a citizen. Wait a minute. This is the Bush administration. Forget I said that. The guy's lucky he's not in Gitmo."

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