The recent mass arrests of hundreds of primarily Arab and Iranian immigrants for minor violations by the INS – this after asking them to voluntarily come in to be fingerprinted, has destroyed years of work by cultural organizations.
From New California Media: “For years Iranian American media and social cultural organizations have been urging Iranian immigrants living in the USA to trust the US government and get involved in social and political activities, and to be part of the society and appreciate the democracy they didn’t have in Iran. Now, this move by the INS has ruined all of the efforts of these organizations, building mistrust among Iranians and the US government.”
Some arrests were for minor infringements, since corrected, which dated back to the 1980’s!
“Takleh says he was interrogated for several hours with an INS agent demanding, among other things, proof of his marriage. “It was performed Islamically,” Takleh notes, explaining that as in most Islamic marriages, no papers were filed with state authorities — a tradition with which the agent appeared entirely unfamiliar, according to Takleh. “I have three children and of course it is not the custom to have children without marriage in Islam,” he noted.
Although Takleh’s papers are currently in order, there was a time in the 1980s when he allowed his visa to lapse after completing college. Takleh claims that he applied to a lottery and was granted full legal status at that time, something reflected in his current documents and which, he says, the agent disregarded and then recorded his status as “illegal.”
“She wouldn’t listen to me,” he says, “but just stated, ‘You are illegal.'”
The treatment of those arrested, once in jail, appears to be substantially worse than the norm.
“Conditions in the San Diego holding center are “inhumane,” said Farhan Memon, who works for a San Francisco law firm representing some of the detainees. He visited the men Sunday. They were jammed into a small cell without beds or chairs, rationed two squares of toilet paper, and given little food, he said.
“It was so cold, like 50 degrees in there, and they could get a long- sleeved shirt, but they had to buy it,” Memon said.”
More from New California Media
“Tabboa was taken to the “tanks” in the basement of the building. Fifty to 80 men and boys were placed in six rooms with two small toilets and washbowls. “Some of the detainees had trouble breathing. There was only a little space under the door to let in fresh air,” Tabboa added. “We were so tight in the rooms that we didn’t even have room for our prayers.”
I saw three elderly men (presuming to be Iranian), in the elevator, facing the wall and down, with hands cuffed in the back with two immigration officers on their sides, with me and 2-3 Latinos in there…while the INS officers were singing “Its a small worldâ€¦ ” and “I’m singing in the rain…” <charming>
One of the many complaints about what seemed to be deliberately bad food (verbatim from an upset visitor).
“Since Last Night, till 2:00 PM this afternoon they just visited their cell once this morning around 11:00 AM and served each detainees a disposable tray with two slices of bread and a boiled egg. Which the one I spoke with mentioned due to a rotten smell of the eggs few of them got nauseous and trough up. No drinking water has been given to them since 2:00 PM. The place is cold and they only have their inmate overall and their bed’s cover sheet and perhaps a small blanket.”
So, was this shabby treatment, which was far worse than your average arrestee gets, done deliberately or was it just more of the usual heavy handed incompetence by the INS? This story got play in media worldwide, and the reaction was uniformly negative against the INS.
Factoid: A woman who works for an immigrant association said on KFPK, she had a previously scheduled appointment with the head of L.A. INS the day after the roundups. She asked him about this and he said he could do nothing, that the orders came from very very high up.
There have been multiple demonstrations and protests, including a written protest to Ashcroft from the Mayor of Irvine California (hardly a hotbed of radicalism). Plus multiple lawsuits have been filed.
And this isn’t even nearly over. The INS has expanded the list of those who must register, and the deadline for registering is (I may not have the exact date), Jan. 20.