National Immigration Forum

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Heck of a Job Cherty

May 15, 2008 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin

When the Washington Post revealed the appalling conditions facing our returning soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in March 2007, a national outcry arose, senior government officials were fired, and changes were made.


Now when the Washington PostNew York TimesCBS News, and others spotlight deaths in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention, the state of medical care for detainees, and the drugging of those in ICE custody to sedate them for deportation, will we see a similar outcry?


Our understanding is that a report is pending from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that will further expose the issue of deaths in detention.  Meanwhile, detainees like Roxanne Brown, held in a facility at SEA-TAC Airport in Washington, continue to die.


So far, the response from ICE has been something less than outraged.


The detention of individuals who are unlawfully present in the United States and pending removal raises strong opinions and merits a more balanced view.  We regret that the New York Times, the Washington Post, and “60 Minutes” have failed to provide such balanced reporting.  This website and its contents are meant to correct the record and provide a comprehensive overview of ICE’s commitment to detainee health care.


Compare this with March 2007, when Defense SecretaryRobert Gates, shortly before firing Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey for his handling of the Walter Reed debacle, stated:


The care and welfare of our wounded men and women in uniform demand the highest standard of excellence and commitment that we can muster as a government…When this standard is not met, I will insist on swift and direct corrective action and, where appropriate, accountability up the chain of command.


And Secretary Gates made good on that statement.


And what does DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff or the President have to say and when do they plan to say it? Who will get fired and when?


One final point, this week we saw the largest ICE raid in the nation’s history as 300 plus detainees were marched to a makeshift detention facility in Postville, Iowa after their meat plant was raided.  To the best of my knowledge, there has not been one national network news story. Generally, any enforcement action resulting in 300 arrests would be cause for countless hours of cable reporting. Do we simply tune these actions out when it is immigrants who are arrested, detained, or denied due process? Have we become comfortably numb?


Secretary Michael Chertoff is right to feel disappointment that the Senate immigration reform proposal he helped craft and shepherd died at the hands of his own party. Yet he has taken his revenge out on immigrants rather than politicians.  With increasingly spectacular raids and seemingly unresponsive nonchalance to deaths in detention, it almost seems as if he is saying, “You wanna see what no immigration reform looks like, here I’ll show you;” letting the cowboy element at ICE and DHS have free rein over the country and her immigrants.


How long until the President says to Secretary Chertoff “You’re doing a heck of a job, Cherty!”

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