Friday, July 26, 2019

Three weeks, no shower, and 'Kafka By Way of Orwell'

The Dallas News tells the following story.

An 18-year-old U.S. citizen was recently detained by U.S. Border Patrol. He was born in Dallas and lives in Texas. He has dual citizenship with Mexico, and he has a U.S. visitors visa that he used dozens of times to travel back and forth. When Border Patrol stopped him, the man was "carrying a Texas ID, wallet-sized birth certificate and Social Security card." The government wrote up a "Notice to Appear" dated June 29, 2019 that says:

The Department of Homeland Security alleges that you:
1. You are not a citizen or national of the United States;
2. You are a native of MEXICO and a citizen of MEXICO;
* * *
6. [After being stopped at the Falfurrias, Texas Border Control Checkpoint on or about June 27, 2019] you falsely represented yourself to be a citizen of the United States..."

Notice to Appear dated June 29, 2019. The Department of Homeland Security alleges that you are not a citizen of the US and that you falsely represented yourself to be a citizen of the US.

He is a U.S. citizen. Nonetheless, Border Patrol detained him and his younger brother. After two days, his younger brother chose to be deported "so that he could tell his mother what was happening with his situation and that of his brother." The 18-year-old man was held for 23 days, during which time he was not allowed to shower and lost 26 pounds.

The Dallas Morning News reported his story on July 22, and the man was released from custody the next day.

On July 25, Brian Hastings, Chief of Law Enforcement at the U.S. Border Patrol, testified about the matter before the House Judiciary Committee. Hastings claimed that the man was detained because he had "claimed to be a Mexican National who was born in Reynosa, Mexico....with no immigration documents to be in or remain in the U.S....At no time in Border Patrol custody did he say that he was a U.S. citizen.”

In response to this, the man's attorney produced the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security's "Notice to Appear" with its statement that "you falsely represented yourself to be a citizen of the United States." This written statement, signed by Sherman Kemp, Acting Patrol Agent in Charge, contradicts Hastings' testimony. Furthermore, two weeks into the 18-year-old's detainment, his lawyer presented his birth certificate to ICE, and yet he wasn't released for another week.

Now free, the man says that Hastings' testimony is "a lie. I showed them my documents and I told them right away that I was a U.S. citizen.” The conditions he endured in Border Patrol custody, according to the Dallas News, almost coerced him to choose deportation.

(It's not the first time a U.S. citizen has been detained. In March 2019, a 9-year-old girl was apprehended on her way to school and held for two days. Authorities blamed the girl for giving "inconsistent information." Again, she is 9.)

And in September 2018, Jennifer Wright wrote for Harper's Bazaar:

Hispanic U.S. citizens, some of whom were in the U.S. military, are not being allowed to renew their passports. This is reportedly happening to “hundreds, even thousands” of Latinos, according to a report in the Washington Post. They’re getting letters from the State Department saying it does not believe they are citizens. The government claims their citizenships are fraudulent. “I’ve had probably 20 people who have been sent to the detention center—U.S. citizens,” Jaime Diez, an attorney in Brownsville, told The Washington Post.

The Washington Post also reports on ICE officials coming to citizens' homes and taking their passports away. This is an escalation from a few months ago, when Americans were detained by ICE officials just for speaking Spanish to one another."

In response

A a Twitter thread by @AlexandraErin referred to the officer's testimony as "Kafka By Way of Orwell logic" and excellently describes the situation.

"To the fascist mindset, there's no contradiction here. ... All of this could have been averted, they want us to know, if he had been honest from the start and simply told them he was a citizen. But instead he lied. He was deceitful. They know he lied because he had the cheek to falsely claim he's a citizen. Falsely claiming he's a citizen is something any lying immigrant might do. It's a distinct and separate act, they are sure, from a citizen simply stating the truth. Very much this. They make up their mind about your motives, which colors whatever you say, even if it's the exact right thing and the literal truth, and they will never grant that this is the same as telling them the truth. No contradiction, to them. When things got hot with media scrutiny and politicians getting involved in the teenager's detention, the people he'd pleaded his case to, I guarantee, did not think "Why didn't we listen?" but "Why couldn't he have just told us, the right way, so we'd know he meant it?" "Falsely claiming to be a citizen" is a distinct enough act in their mind that a ~*certain type*~ of person can manage it, even if they happen to be an actual citizen. Which just makes it cheekier, of course. The nerve of making them look foolish by falsely claiming the truth! ... What is truth to a fascist? The truth is what they say, and only when they say it, only when it is useful. ... And so the shock and dismay and outrage of the right when they realize their opponents and targets were telling the truth is genuine, is honest, maybe the most honest thing about them. They feel cheated. They feel... lied to. "What do you mean by telling me the truth, just because it's true? That's a dirty trick. I've never seen anything more underhanded, more unscrupulous..."

She continues by pointing out that, had he chosen to allow the Dept. of Homeland Security to deport him, it may have been difficult for him to re-enter the US, the country where he lives and of which he is a citizen by birth. "The creation of a stateless other is part of the model." Thus, he was not truly "free to leave at any time" (as one Internet commenter tried to argue with her).

His only power to end the torture was to agree that he was An Illegal, agreed he had no right to due process and no right to remain here, and agreed to do what they wanted. It wasn't true, but it was the only answer the torturers would have accepted. Which is the purpose of torture. Not to get at the truth, but to establish something already believed by the torturer as true. can't gain information through torture. It's confirmation bias through pain. The torture ends when the torturer hears the truth. "The truth" therefore must be something the torturer already knows, otherwise how can they know it's true?

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