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Immigration’s Evil Side

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This is a true story. The person trapped in the Kafkaesque world of U.S. Immigration is still in a holding facility so I have to be careful about specifics because I firmly believe the Immigration people will take it out on him should they be able to identify him.

Let’s call him Franz, as in Franz Kafka. Franz is a man in his early 30s from a Western nation who has a green card and has lived in the U.S. for some years. He is cursed with serious mental problems that are under control when he’s taking his medication, but before he was arrested, like many people with this kind of illness, he’d stopped taking them. He violated a restraining order in personal matter by making a non-threatening telephone call–a matter not serious enough to warrant arrest, let alone deportment. Separately, he also began a massive letter and phone campaign to a U.S. government agency about what he perceived to be illegal activity. At the end, he was demanding $50 billion.

Was Franz harassing them? Sure. Was he a pest? Absolutely. Did he at any time, in any way do anything that could be perceived as a threat? No. But the agency contacted Immigration, and he was arrested and taken to a holding facility 5 1/2 hours from his home–in the middle of nowhere. He cannot receive phone calls although he can make them. He can be visited for 2 hours a week between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. The facility is an enormous, concrete garage with cots. There is no privacy, even in the showers. He has been there for almost two months and has not once been allowed outside.

Six weeks ago, Franz had his hearing (via video conference!) with Judge Wayne Iskra. I mention the judge’s name because he’s the only bright spot in this sordid affair. In advance of the hearing, the government lawyer agreed with Franz’s lawyer to voluntary departure rather than deportation because, she admitted, the government’s case was weak to non-existent. The difference is substantial. Voluntary departure means he can reapply for admission to the U.S. in the future. Deportation means sayonara forever. She also assured his lawyer three times that she had his passport.

Judge Iskra at first comes across as a no-nonsense, firm, strict judge. But watching him deal with a number of cases before Franz’s came up, I was impressed with his profound respect and patience for the people (all via video conference) awaiting a decision about their status. He also showed both a willingness to be flexible and a degree of humanity that must be difficult given his job. Franz’s mother had flown over for the hearing, and the judge asked her to sit next to his attorney. And when the hearing was over, Judge Iskra said he had some work to do and let Franz and his mother continue to use the video conferencing.

The ruling: Voluntary departure within 8 days. As Judge Iskra said, “Let’s get this young man home so he can get some help.” But…he extended the departure to up to 30 days just in case the Immigration and Deportment Division couldn’t get their act together. Franz was to stay at the detention center.

His mother had to buy a one-way, open ticket, which she did the next day, and it was given to the Immigration people in charge of departures. That’s when what can only be called the corruption began.

The government lawyer suddenly couldn’t find the passport. The embassy said they couldn’t issue travel papers until they had a firm date. The Immigration people said they couldn’t pick a date until they had the travel papers. Then the Immigration Nazis decided that Franz was a risk and had to be accompanied by two federal agents even though the judge never ordered that, so he had to wait until agents were available.

Weeks have gone by. Franz’s lawyer can rarely get in touch with the Immigration goon in charge of the case–even when he goes to his office and sits there. The 30 days have expired, which means that Immigration can argue that Franz failed to fulfill his obligations and can be deported.

My wife kept telling me that that’s what Immigration was trying to do. I thought her paranoid. Turns out I was pitifully naive. His lawyer told me that this is a typical Immigration ploy. They hate voluntary departures, so they delay the departure beyond the date set by the judge, argue that it’s the victim’s fault, and deport them. As they’ve told the lawyer, they don’t care what the judge ordered. They don’t want any of these people in the U.S.

Franz committed no crime. Everything the judge ordered was delivered immediately. Franz and however many others the Immigration goons treat this way will go home–eventually–hating the United States because of the actions of a few arrogant bureaucrats with shit for brains. Most of these people trapped in this chamber of horrors are not criminals, most are decent people who got caught up in the evil side of America’s immigration policy.

I don’t expect this post to change anything. I’m seriously considering contacting the media and have talked to Franz’s lawyer about it. But maybe, just maybe, someone will read this and send it to someone who can do something about a system that violates every value we hold dear as a country.

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About Mark Schannon

Retired crisis & risk manager/communications expert; extensive public relations experience in most areas over 30 years. Still available for extraordinary opportunities of mind-numbing complexity. Life-long liberal agnostic...or is that agnostic liberal.
  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Don’t it just fill your heart with pride to be an American, Mark?

  • Rarely these days, Ruvy. There’s so much good will and good works no one ever reads about, so many good people helping others. But it’s hard to see it through the crap continually thrown in our faces.

    I’m sure these same things–and worse–go on in other countries, but they shouldn’t go on here. If we’re going to pull an Oscar Meyer (holding ourselves to a higher authority), then we have a moral obligation to live up to that. I know I’m sounding naive, but I don’t think I am–without those values, we’re just another Ship of Fools adrift on the ocean in this insane world.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Mark, the firm that holds itself to a “higher authority” is Hebrew National, not Oscar Meyer.

    Perhaps you should give some thought to Who that higher Authority is.

    Truth of the matter, and I never thought I would see myself write this, I feel just as overjoyed about Israel. What you described was just the kind of crap that goes on all the time in the court and police system here – except that finding a decent judge is a lot lot harder.

    And the idiots running things here don’t seem to want to recognize that Higher Authority either.

  • Oscar Meyer, Hebrew National–if it’s kosher, God’s gotta say it’s cool. Yeah, I know about their higher authority, and I’m trying, really trying. Just had an interesting discussion with my mother about that “leap of faith” this morning. We’re both standing on the edge afraid to take it.

    You ever hear the joke about the guy who slips off a cliff and is hanging on a tree branch. He yells up, “Is anybody there.”

    This deep voice answers. “Yes, my son, this is the Lord. Do you believe?”

    The man quickly says, “Oh yes, Lord, I believe.”

    The Lord says, “Then let go of the branch and I will save you.

    The man thinks for a second and yells up, “Is there anybody else there?”

    So, Ruvy, tell me something. We both live in countries with high standards of living and education, we both live in countries that feel a sense of purpose for being on the earth, religious or otherwise.

    How come our governments are filled with such morons? Hell, I’d take the Old Testament God over these clowns. At least with Him, if you did exactly what he said…not even the slightest variation…you might come out o.k.

  • 4th horsemen

    Schannon… where do u belong?

  • 4th horsemen…wanna try English?

  • RedTard

    When I hear a story like this it always makes me wonder what the motivations are. A majority of the time the corruption seems to involve money. I see no monetary gain to be had by deporting the man though. Perhaps the agents feel the need to get tough since many people view immigration enforcement as a joke. Occasionally it is for strictly sadistic purposes, that is a very small percentage though.

    From reading your post it actually seems likely that the man is simply a jerk. He did get a restraining order in the first place for doing something. He wouldn’t respect his restraining order once it was imposed. He wouldn’t take responsibility for his actions when caught in violation of the order and instead demanded money from the agency.

    Ideally the law should treat a total jerk the same as they would a person who exhibits remorse and respect for authority, but this is the real world. If you act like an ass and go looking for trouble you usually find it.

    (I don’t mean to be rude by suggesting your acquaintance might be a jerk, you yourself even described him as a pest, I am just imagining how someone on the other side might describe him)

  • If being a jerk becomes a deportable offense, very few people will be allowed to stay in this country.

  • RedTard, I completely understand how you might interpret the story that way. This young man isn’t a jerk–although it’s easy to see him that way–he’s mentally ill and needs help.

    But you fail to note the most important factor: an immigration judge decided that his behavior did not warrant deportation but rather voluntary departure. He ordered the departure to occur within 8 days because he knew the young man needed help and could best get it in his native country.

    The immigration office in charge of these matters has made it clear that they don’t respect these judicial rulings, that they don’t like the concept of voluntary departure–a judgment they’re not at liberty to make–and they systematically slow down the system to screw people who have not been convicted of any crime.

    There are plenty of immigrants who break the law and deserve to be deported–that’s why there are judicial reviews. And then there are those who, for a variety of reasons, are given the right to leave voluntarily, and, after a period of time, reapply for their green cards. That’s what judges are for–not a bunch of low-brow, Neanderthal immigration goons who’ve decided to take the law into their own hands.

    It is the violation of a judicial order, the violation of basic human rights, the violation of the language and spirit of immigrations laws that are at issue.

  • Victor, thank you. Point made well and simply.

  • So, Ruvy, tell me something. We both live in countries with high standards of living and education, we both live in countries that feel a sense of purpose for being on the earth, religious or otherwise.

    How come our governments are filled with such morons? Hell, I’d take the Old Testament God over these clowns. At least with Him, if you did exactly what he said…not even the slightest variation…you might come out o.k.

    The roots of both of our countries are with the G-d of Israel – and the leaders of both nations have decided to spit at the G-d which has blessed both of them. You and I are both seeing what happens in such a case. The people suffer for the sins of the leaders. This is a principle of how the universe works. Read the Books of Kings and the Books of Chronicles, the major prophets and you see this rule in operation. Then look at you own nation, and at mine, if you’re so minded, and you’ll see the same concept at work.

    The men who wrote the Declaration of Independence in your country were religious men who followed the Noahide Laws – they (actually Madison) wrote that people subjected to a long tain of abuses whose end was tyranny had a duty to overthrow the leaders who did this. They too, read the Book of Kings.

  • RedTard

    One of my ideas for motivation was that the immigration officials felt they needed to get tough because overall enforcement is a joke. I suspect they view the judge as a weakling who won’t enforce laws to their satisfaction. That is certainly not the way our system is designed to work.

    Aren’t the people who are attempting to deport him the same agency that would need to approve his application for reentry? It seems they could achieve the same thing by putting a note in his file to bar attempts at reentry because he caused trouble. Then again, what is perceived as a conspiracy might just be utter incompetence at an overworked agency.

  • RedTard: Utter incompetence would be a reasonable option–in fact, the logical explanation given our government–if it weren’t for the fact that the immigration officials specifically told the lawyer what they were doing and why. And the lawyer told me that this goes on all the time.

    This isn’t an issue of illegal immigration, he had a green card; this isn’t about a danger to society–at worst, when he’s off his medicine, he can be a pests; this isn’t about the judge as a weakling–I watched him go through about 8 or 9 cases before “Franz’s” came up; this is about a concerted effort by some federal employees to flaunt the judiciary system to further their own agenda and in doing so, cause further damage to our country’s reputation.

    Ruvy, I can’t disagree. It is the height of irony that our president, a born-again Christian, should turn his back on basic Judeo-Christian principles, not to mention those enshrined in the Constituion & Bill of Rights. Very sad.

  • RedTard

    It certainly sounds like your friend has been wronged, I am just trying to figure out what the ‘own agenda’ of the officers is.

  • I guess the question here has to be what these federal agents ‘agenda’ is. What common characteristics do the cases where they obstruct and screw things up have? Is it that they are just trying to keep the mentally ill out of the country? Or is it something about ‘franz’ besides that – perhaps his nationality? Or is it that they have become twisted by their jobs into just hating all immigrants?

    It seems to me that their motivation is at the heart of this, and we have to know that before we know where to start in fixing it.


  • The motivation is in the post–they hate the concept of “voluntary departures” which means, after a time, the person can reapply for admission. If you’re deported, you can never return.

    As I’ve noted, the lawyer involved says that he’s had numerous cases such as this, that the immigration officials involved have developed an almost pathological dislike for immigrants who’ve run afoul of the system, regardless of the seriousness of the offense.

    It’s not rational, but what in this bizarre world is ever rational?

  • It may just be cynicism mixed with apathy. When I marred my Scottish husband and we applied for his immigration status we were told that it could take years. My husband comes from the UK, he is highly educated and completely employable however when we had our first interview with Immigration they were very blunt in saying that no foreign national would marry and American for any reason other than to obtain American Citizenship. End of story and end of our attempt to get him a green card.

    We now live happily in Scotland I am about to become a citizen of the UK and we have had no hassle from immigration in the UK. Who, let me add, believe we got married because we love each other. An amazing idea I know. But apparently we Americans are more loveable than our government thinks we are.

  • A.L. Thanks for comment. I suppose there’s an I.Q. test to become an immigration officer–if you have one, you fail. I’m sure there are thousands of stories such as yours. America’s loss yet again.

  • Nancy

    I wonder if the motivation is that the ‘authorities’ in Immigration feel that the US just doesn’t need another person who becomes a nutcase when he won’t/forgets to take his meds? God knows we have enough home-grown cases like that here without importing additional ones. It could be they feel that if he was pestiferous enough to require someone getting a restraining order, he may become dangerous in the future, and hence is an Undesirable. If I read between the lines & ID the condition correctly, this is entirely possible, if not a given probability. Just speculating.

  • Nancy, my problem has been that I can’t go into detail…so I wasnt clear enough. The restraining order that he violated–in a very minor way–is completely separate from the harassment of the agency. The order was a personal issue…he made a phone call, didn’t visit, didn’t threaten, didn’t harass.

    And there’s no question he should leave the country. He agrees. It’s just that a judge made an official ruling that it should be voluntary and the immigration people are ignoring an offical judicial ruling. When & if he reapplys, I’m sure they’ll want documentation that his mental issues are under control.

  • Nancy

    As I said, I was just speculating, since I couldn’t think of any other rationale. I do know Immigration takes a dim view of admitting individuals with medical/mental problems who might become a charge or endangerment to US citizens, no matter how remote the chances are. As said, we have more than enough home-grown nuts without admitting more from other places.

    Why in the world do people with these kinds of problems refuse to take their meds, anyway? I should think they’d feel so much better when they’re thinking straight, they’d fear to go without? Kind of like a diabetic refusing to take insulin….

  • Why in the world do people with these kinds of problems refuse to take their meds, anyway? I should think they’d feel so much better when they’re thinking straight, they’d fear to go without? Kind of like a diabetic refusing to take insulin….

    This is somethng I’m more familiar with than I like to think about. I have a disorder that requires medication. But for many years, I hated having the disorder and taking the medication. As much as I could, I tried to figure out ways to cut the meds, or not take them, or get around taking them because I hated the disorder.

    It takes time and a certain amount of maturity to accept oneself as one is. Only when I could do that did I stop fighting the disorder I have and allow it to benefit me.

  • Nancy, it’s a great question & thanks Ruvy for sharing your personal story. Long ago, I worked as a psych aide at a very upscale mental hospital at Yale primarily for adolescent psychotics: schizophrenics and manic/depressives.

    Psychotic behavior is almost impossible to understand–particularly for those of us who are simply neurotic. The vast majority are not dangerous or a threat to others, but their brains don’t work the way ours do. What we take for reason and logic are often alien to them–they often have an internal sense of logic and reason that’s just as alien to us.

    Part of the problem is that, for all the advances made with psychotropic drugs, there are side effects that range from annoying to debilitating. Often what happens is that the patient feels emotionally castrated. There’s a dullness that becomes unbearable.

    Other times, people start feeling better, think they’re in control, don’t like the side effects, and stop taking the drugs–and once the disease hits, it’s almost impossible for them to recognize that they’ve got to take the pills again.

    And still others begin to blame their problems on the pills.

    If you want to read a couple of books that’ll help you understand the horror of these diseases:

    Two fiction books: “David & Lisa/Jordi”. “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” which is taken from a real case where the pyschiatrist was the world-renowned Frieda-Fromme Reichman (I’m sure that’s spelled wrong.)

    An amazing non-fiction book is “The Divided Self” by R.D. Laing. All of these are quite old–from the 60s or 70s, and I’m sure there are lots of others, but they helped me a lot as I was trying to understand the patients at Yale.

    Sorry for the extended comment, but your question deserves a thorough answer.

  • smooth

    This kinda stuff, Has been happening for years.Lwt say for example: your locked up in county jail X but you have a court hearing in county Z which is only 5 miles away instead of county X communicating with county Z telling them inmate so in so is locked up in there jail and there will be no way the inmate can show up for his hearing they will just let county Z post a warrent for your arrest and the Circle contiues your just stuck in the System

  • Agent Orange

    Violating a restraining order not enough to warrant arrest? That’s a misdemeanor offense at the very least, my friend.

  • Dear Dioxin(sorry, couldn’t help it), the lack of specificity I’ve imposed upon myself begs for responses such as yours & I understand them. As I said in one of my comments, he made a non-threatening phone call which was against the restraining order. Yes, it probably is a midsdemeanor, but one is rarely arrested for running a stop light, speeding, jaywalking.

    He was reprimanded, but the government judge agreed with his lawyer that the phone call, alone, was not grounds for being deported.

    Remember, he’s willing…at this point desperate…to leave the country voluntarily. If he ever decides to come back, they’ll put him through the mill. The question is the action of immigration officials blatantly and openly ignoring a judicial order. That’s probably more than a misdemeanor.

  • Could Immigration’s motive be an unacknowledged quota system? E.g. – if XX% of your cases don’t end up with deportation, you’re not meeting quota and therefore not an effective agent? That sort of thing happens frequently in local law enforcement.

  • But it’s not the agent’s decision. It’s a judge’s decision. The group that deals with getting people out of the country doesn’t have the authority to decide voluntary departure or deportation so they can’t be held to a quota.

    The good news–for anyone still following this–is that “Franz” is going home on Monday, and it’s voluntary departure even after the immigration people tried to argue he should be deported. Thank God for a good lawyer.

  • Having dealt with the INS (now BCIS) much more than any human being should have to, I am both surprised and inordinately pleased that things worked out for “Franz,” even if he is a nutjob loser (or not, I’m just saying it doesn’t matter to me).

    My wife was born in another country, but is now a U.S. citizen. We had three kids between when we applied and when she was finally sworn in. I suppose they didn’t hurt our chances. 🙂

  • Phillip,

    I know so little about our immigration service. This episode was my first–and I hope last–adventure. Who knows? Maybe they’re making $20k/year and hate everybody.

    I’m surprised you only needed three children to convince them that you and your wife really were in love & not just trying to sneak her into the country. LOL

  • Drakk

    Boo hoo. He wasn’t a citizen, so who cares whether he’s deported or departs, if it was so horrible, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind the deportation since he’d never WANT to come back. So he was held up for a couple months in a private holding facility… And this is supposed to be news. There’s way too many other travisties that go on that this doesn’t even need mentioning.

    And I agree with what Winn Says, He sounds like a nutjob loser.

  • Drakk

    BTW Immigration’s evil side is that illegal immigration is allowed, and a high rate of legal immigration.

  • Nancy

    Being an immigration agent is a lot like being an IRS, FBI, NSA, or CIA agent (I know people in all of them): you see the worst sorts of people, and finally become suspicious about almost everybody & their motives. Truly, people who work in these agencies do develop a “wagon train surrounded by indians” mentality, and generally feel they can trust only their ‘own kind’ – i.e. fellow agents. They generally don’t even trust people in other agencies, and sometimes not even in other branches of their own. It’s a VERY peculiar mindset endemic to these agencies. Understandable for survival’s sake by CIA operatives, but I guess the general stigma or spookiness (so to speak) to the public generates the feeling among the rest of them too.

  • Drakk, your comments aren’t worth a response. I feel sorry for you.

    Nancy, yeah, I’ve thought of that too, but then I think of Judge Iskra who sits day after day dealing with these people. He’s managed to be firm and tough, yet humane and reasonable.

    I know they’re two different jobs, but it comes down to a simple fact: A judge issues a ruling. A group of federal employees brag about not caring about what some judge says and ignore the ruling. Drakk wouldn’t understand that because it requires some concept of justice, but one fights important consitutional battles at the fringes to avoid fighting them in one’s living room.

  • Nancy

    You’re right, & I’m not excusing them; it’s just I do know the mindset & how/why it develops. How come the judge doesn’t enforce it & discipline the immigration personnel responsible?

  • Mark, in my years of experience as a “consumer” of immigration services, I’ve encountered some clearly bitter employees, and some folks who were really doing their best and seemed to care about the people they were trying to serve.

    I don’t get the idea that any of them are very highly-paid, though federal benefits packages are usually nice.

    Having spent hours and hours sitting (or standing, post-9/11) and watching what these employees deal with, I have to say that I’m not surprised even by the bitter ones. They do deal with some serious nonsense.

  • Nancy, as far as I can tell, it’s two completely different bureaucracies & the judge never hears about it. I think the only way the lawyer in the case got “Franz” his release was by going to the government attorney and threatening to ask for a new hearing before the judge…something he should have done a month ago. But I’ve wondered the same thing.

    I think it’s that these people are like the homeless, the emotionally ill, the poor–society doesn’t care about them–look at Drakk’s response. We’ve turned our backs on anyone who’s disadvantaged (unless it’s a big news story) becoming a nation of blaming the victims.

    Phillip, I do understand they’re not dealing with nice people everyday & even understand the bitterness and cynicism. That’s why there has to be some oversight to prevent abuses in the system.