Friday, December 20, 2002

Good news and bad news about the INS roundups from the NY Times.

The good news is that they're likely to be released soon:
Immigration officers have arrested hundreds of men in the last week after they appeared voluntarily to register, with an unknown number still in custody today. An I.N.S. official in California told family members and immigration lawyers that virtually all of those still held would be released in the next 24 hours, with instructions to report back in 30 to 60 days to complete the registration process, lawyers said.
The bad news is that it looks like this wasn't really the work of the INS itself, but somebody higher up:

An agency official in Southern California said that Justice Department officials in Washington dictated the rules of the program and gave local authorities little leeway to determine who should be detained or released. As a result, hundreds of men with minor visa violations were handcuffed and locked up for days while officials sorted through mountains of paperwork and bail applications.
It's good to see that most of these people will be released. It doesn't change the fact of the original arrests, of course, and doesn't matter one whit as to the possibility of it happening again, but at least the detention was not a long-term thing. Actually, it looks like the whole thing was something of a cockup and that the people at the INS weren't exactly happy about it:

There was apparently no plan for mass detentions, so many were kept overnight in temporary lockups or local jails, some with no sleeping facilities, said people who went through the process...

"Our objective was to hold people only until we had completed confirmation of records checks," the I.N.S. official said. "But a staggering number of people showed up on the last day and we couldn't keep up..."

..."Monday was the worst day I've ever spent at I.N.S. in 20 years of working with them," Mr. Paparelli said. "We were on the eighth floor of the federal building in Los Angeles and everyone in the corridor was weeping or in a state of extreme anxiety. Across the hall was the employee health center where aerobics music was blaring."
This isn't surprising, really; the idea that a sweeping order from the top that was poorly implemented can lead to civil rights violations isn't exactly a new one. It doesn't excuse anybody, of course, least of all the INS people that winked with one eye while preparing the handcuffs with the other, and it certainly doesn't change the precedent this sets for the wholesale and discriminatory arrests of peaceful immigrants... but at least it proves that the people at the INS were as bothered as everybody else by this. That's a hopeful sign.

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