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Book Review: Show Trials by Peter Afrasiabi

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Immigration is certainly one of the hottest topics out there, and a truly divisive one most of the time. It seems that everybody has an opinion on it, but very few of us could truthfully say that we really understand it completely, or even that we are familiar with all of the necessary facets of it. Show Trials by Peter Afrasiabi definitely brings a lot of clarity to the legal side of this issue, as well as many needed insights into the human and emotional side of it.

The author begins with an introduction identifying the problems of the failed immigration system, and continues with a slew of examples of legal proceedings against immigrants, explaining the inner workings of the system and pointing out where its major weaknesses or oversights actually are to be found. The reader is brought face to face with real cases dealing with real people, and it soon becomes evident that immigration is truly an immensely complex issue; that no matter how much one might have thought of it and the possible consequences of some of the legal proceedings against the illegal immigrants, one could not have ever envisioned all of the complicated issues properly. What those cases demonstrated very clearly to me was the fact that the people are not as protected in this country as one would have thought, and the author’s comparisons with cases involving intellectual property were absolutely astonishing; even more astonishing were the hard numbers quoted. Let me focus on just two of the statistics, one about the lack of attorneys for immigrants and the other on how much the cost of detaining those immigrants is. According to Mr. Afrasiabi, there are over 350,000 immigration cases each year, and around 60 percent of the immigrants in those cases do not have an attorney. Can you imagine dealing with the judicial system without an attorney? What if one does not speak the language very well, and comes from a very different cultural environment? The challenges there should be quite evident to everybody. Even more shocking is the fact that, as of 2010, our government has been spending $1.77 billion annually on jailing immigrants, which makes this the largest and the most expensive detention program in the U.S.

The heartbreaking stories and the shocking statistics in the book were very well balanced by Mr. Afrasiabi’s possible solutions for many of the problems plaguing the system. I found his proposals very common sense and practical, and quite doable. It was quite clear to me that Mr. Afrasiabi was both compassionate and extremely well versed on this topic, and I was very impressed that he managed to write about this matter in a way that is completely accessible to any reader, even those of us who have absolutely no previous knowledge of the legal system. I am truly glad that I took the time to read Show Trials and I feel I understand this issue much better now. This is a book that should truly be read by anybody who would like to get a more comprehensive and better balanced picture of the immigration issues in the U.S. today.

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About Maria Juliana Leal-Belloso

  • Intriguing review, Olivera, although I feel you could have gone into a bit more detail regarding how Afrasiabi shows the disparity between immigration and property cases.

    As a legal immigrant myself, I must say it is intriguing how the US has, in the course of its history, gone from no immigration controls whatsoever (e.g. the Jamestown settlers and the Mayflower pilgrims) to the thorough background checks – involving Scotland Yard, the FBI and the CIA – that I had to undergo in order to get my green card. And this was prior to 9/11.