Opponents of increased immigration to the United States often justify their bigotry by claiming that foreigners don’t understand American values. I’m sure there’s some truth to that, but I usually feel that the most un-American values are held by people who are already here. And whether it’s turning back friendly tourists, keeping out musical styles they don’t understand, or letting cancer victims die in their custody, an awful lot of them work for ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Consider the case of Jerry Lemaine, as reported by Nina Bernstein in the New York Times:
ELMONT, N.Y. — When a police officer in this Long Island suburb found a marijuana cigarette in Jerry Lemaine’s pocket one night in January 2007, a Legal Aid lawyer counseled him to plead guilty. Under state statutes, the penalty was only a $100 fine, and though Mr. Lemaine had been caught with a small amount of marijuana years earlier as a teenager, that case had been dismissed.
But Mr. Lemaine, a legal permanent resident, soon discovered that his quick guilty plea had dire consequences. Immigration authorities flew him in shackles to Texas, where he spent three years behind bars, including 10 months in solitary confinement, as he fought deportation to Haiti, the country he had left at age 3.
You may be wondering why Immigration bothered to fly a New Yorker all the way to Texas. The answer, as usual, is jurisdiction shopping:
Under federal rulings that prevailed in Texas, Mr. Lemaine had lost the legal opportunity that rulings in New York would have allowed: to have an immigration judge weigh his offenses, including earlier misdemeanors resolved without jail time, against other aspects of his life, like his nursing studies at Hunter Business School; his care for his little sister, a United States citizen with a brain disorder; and the help he gave his divorced mother, who had worked double shifts to move the family out of a dangerous Brooklyn neighborhood.
If you’ve been reading Windypundit for a while, you already know I have no respect for the war on drugs, so I don’t see the point of deporting drug users. But even if you think drug use is a real crime, this next part should disturb you:
The government maintains that for deportation purposes, two convictions for drug possession add up to the equivalent of drug trafficking, an “aggravated felony” that requires expulsion and prohibits immigration courts from granting exceptions based on individual life circumstances.
In other words, Lemaine is being deported for a felony for which he has never been convicted…or even charged.
As if that wasn’t bad enough,
The judge decided that under Fifth Circuit rulings, two marijuana violations made Mr. Lemaine a “recidivist felon” ineligible for bond or for any relief from deportation, even though his first marijuana offense had been dismissed.
Got that? Two misdemeanor convictions add up to a felony, even if one of the convictions isn’t actually a conviction.
We’re still not to the weirdest part. :
Aaron D. Simowitz, 31, who shouldered part of the legal work, said the case often seemed surreal. For example, the New York criminal court refused to vacate, or erase, Mr. Lemaine’s first marijuana conviction, reasoning that there was nothing to vacate because the conviction did not exist; the case had been dismissed, as planned, after a six-month adjournment.
Wow. Paging Franz Kafka…
If I understand correctly, it sounds like the first case got an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, meaning that the judge decided to hold off on the proceedings for a while and see if Lemaine could stay out of trouble. If he did, the case would be dismissed, as if it had never been filed. Part of the reason for doing this (instead of a plea with a light sentence) is to avoid creating a criminal record for the defendant. You know, so committing a minor crime doesn’t cause him trouble later in life.
This is as un-American as it gets.