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.