We Warn You Again: This Could Be YOU

The Ordeal of Suzi Hazahza: The Pirates of Homeland Security

One by one, the helium-inflated excuses for arresting and imprisoning Suzi Hazahza have been popped and now lie on the ground. And the single memory humanizing the government that still holds her unlawfully behind bars is the look on one Federal Magistrate’s face Thursday in Dallas when he was told by a US Attorney that Congress has stripped the federal bench of any right to order Suzi Hazahza freed until a full six months of illegal detention have passed.

Anguish is the word that some observers have used to describe the look on the judge’s face as he wrestled with the impotence of his authority before the power of Homeland Security to arrest and detain innocent immigrants.

“Believe it or not, immigration law is replete with that language,” explains New York immigration attorney Joshua Bardavid from his New York office on Friday evening, as sounds of the street honk outside his window. “Congress has told the courts that many discretionary decisions by immigration authorities are unreviewable.” In this case, the unreviewable decision involves the unlawful six-month imprisonment of an innocent immigrant in the hellish privatized Rolling Plains prison of Haskell, Texas.

Over the weekend, Bardavid will work up his motion pleading with the Federal Magistrate to exercise his unimpeachable power to enforce the Constitution, with its protections against unlawful seizure and guarantees of due process. But the argument will be a a tough sell politically, because in order to take legal responsibility for Suzi Hazahza, the federal courts will have to state plainly that Homeland Security is using its discretionary authority to break the Constitution on American soil. For an aspiring federal magistrate under the administration of George the Bush II, such a ruling could mean the end of a career and almost certain reversal by the racist Fifth Circuit judges who gave us Hopwood not too many years ago (the ruling that abolished affirmative action in Texas for several years).

“It is extraordinarily upsetting and frustrating that we can live in a system where it is possible that a judge concludes that detention is unlawful but that he himself has no authority to release the prisoner,” says Bardavid. But that could be the best hand-wringing effort that the federal courts will make in this case. And it would be a nauseating retreat from the principle of habeas corpus at home.

For Suzi Hazahza, the reality of a powerless judiciary branch, disabled by a weak Congress, will leave her to the hands of a muscular executive power without checks or balances. She will be living in a virtual police state until May 3, when the six-month deadline for her unlawful detention expires. For the rest of us, that leaves a question. If we allow Suzi Hazahza and other innocent immigrants to live in a police state for six months at a time, what are we allowing Homeland Security to make of America?

Read the rest here.

In the same vein, there’s this:

From Salem to Gitmo: The Politics of the Witch Hunt

A little after two on the afternoon of Sept. 26, 2002, Maher Arar, a Canadian businessman of Syrian descent, on his way home to Ottawa after a family vacation, deplaned at New York’s JFK Airport — and walked into a nightmarish history.

Arar also found himself in an all-too-contemporary wasteland of fear, ignorance, racist xenophobia and careerist atavism otherwise known as U.S. foreign policy. It is the service of these two important books to link that gruesome past and present of his emblematic ordeal, a plight in a wider sense we all share.

Canadians will be more familiar with the Arar case, which only two months ago brought a belated public apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a $10.5-million compensation, torture-chamber money that spoke more eloquently than any ministerial words to the shame of the Canadian government. Wrongly accused of ties to al-Qaeda based on plainly bogus information and guilt by the merest association, Arar, his Canadian passport discarded like used tissue, was arrested and interrogated by U.S. agents for five days without seeing a lawyer, and more than a week before the Canadian consul finally showed up — only to lie to him by saying that the United States would not deport him to Syria as they were threatening.

Days later, he was being beaten and tortured in a Syrian dungeon, where the young McGill University graduate would suffer for more than year, until his wife’s tireless campaign and his own desperate false confession brought his release.

In an aftermath of mounting public outrage, Judge Dennis O’Connor’s September, 2006, inquiry found categorically that there was no evidence of a terrorist connection, that the RCMP had knowingly passed false information to U.S. authorities, and that Arar — as Ottawa and Washington both well knew, and some surely intended — was brutally tortured after being illegally deported to Syria. But Harper’s mincing if cash-laden regret for “any role Canadian officials may have played in what happened to Mr. Arar” still ceded the decision to “render” Arar to Syria to the Bush administration, which typically claims it was all quite legal and justified, and in any event secret, a matter of “national security.” Judge O’Connor and $10.5-million notwithstanding, south of the border, Maher Arar remains on the terrorist watch-list.

Read it here.

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