Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Piedmonth death

The other blog is tentatively back up and running. I stopped a while back. At the time, I thought it had to do with my grueling exam schedule and general law school distractions. But upon later reflection, I've realized that it may also have been sparked by a couple of things...

I started the blog with the intention of posting articles about ICE raids on homes and work places. This is because there were so many rumors milling around Richmond about la migra coming at night and hauling parents away from kids, etc. I know how rumors spread rampant in this regard, but I also know that fear of ICE is very real. I wanted to try to figure out what is actually happening and where and when and to whom.

Not surprisingly, there wasn't much in the way of news reporting about these types of raids. It's so frustrating, because they ARE happening. They just aren't reported on. But, occasionally, there is a big raid, or an inspired journalist, and a story appears. So I wanted to post those, so I would have a reason to keep looking and others would have a way to keep track.

However, I quickly realized that there is a slipperly slope. I didn't want to post stories about criminals who were being deported after doing jail time, because that wasn't really hitting the heart of the issue as I saw it. The idea that people are just living their lives and then suddenly they are in jail was really upsetting to me. So I started setting guidelines: no articles about those who were arrested for other things and happened to be deportable, for example. No articles about drug busts at the border.

Yet those are the kinds of deportations that ARE reported on, and with regularity. It's no wonder people think all immigrants with brown skin are criminals. Every day there are 100s of articles about immigrants accused of molestation, beating their kids to death, smuggling drugs or killing pedestrians in drunk driving accidents. Tons of articles about those people being arrested and getting ICE holds placed on them. "Juan Garcia was arrested and an immigration hold has been placed on him by federal immigration officials." Which brings with it two problems: (1) Juan Garcia hasn't been tried, so we don't know if he is guilty or innocent; all we know is he is accused. (2) "Immigration hold" just means the person is suspected of being in the country illegally. It doesn't mean he is or isn't.

So many questions. Literally, they are endless. Even though these people are accused of crimes, I still consider them to be tied to the issue of immigrant rights. Because who knows what happens to Juan Garcia after the hold is placed. Is he held for 48 hours and released? Is he improperly held longer? Did ICE officials actually pick him up? Was he a US citizen? It's just another person who entered into the US criminal justice system only to be handed over to this Other World where the usual rules of justice and due process don't seem to apply. Just that instead of seeming totally innocent, they were already branded criminal.

The line became even fuzzier when I started seeing articles (or mostly just blurbs in Police Blotters) about individuals who were pulled over for the ever-generic "traffic violations" and ended up with ICE holds placed on them. Getting pulled over is not the same thing as having your house raided. But then again, making an illegal right turn on red is no reason to be thrown into that Other World, the maze of immigration that usually ends up in either swift deportation or months of languishing in prison (and then deportation). Who are these people? What happens to them? Are they receiving justice?

In short, there were way more questions than answers. I have had so much trouble distinguishing what to post and not post. What is appropriate and not appropriate. I wanted to be fair. I wanted to attract people from both sides, to just look at it from an objective point of view. But you can't pick and choose articles without choosing your perspective. And on top of that, I DO have a point of view, so I couldn't just leave out articles about detainee deaths.

Which is what I found today when I resumed posting on the blog for the second day. Friends of mine are organizing in Farmville, VA, and happened to be quoted in this New York Times article you will find on my other blog. I was proud of them for making the Times with their work. I was saddened by the horrific occasion. Another death in another jail by another detainee. A Piedmont death.

I have to keep posting, but I am going to continue to struggle with this. I guess we'll see.

Oh yeah, the other reason I stopped posting for a while: it makes me depressed to read this stuff day in and day out. On the other hand, I better get used to it. This is what I want to do for a living.

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